“Aravallis act as a barrier against the dust storms emanating in the Thar, with the reduction in the number of hillocks and deforestation gaps have emerged in these ranges hence dust storms have become more common in Delhi and Punjab worsening the air quality. Crushing and mining of stones at the Aravalli also spreads Particulate Matter (PM) into the air” said Dr M Shah Hussain, Ecologist and Scientist In charge of the Aravali Biodiversity Park, he was giving a talk ‘Saving the Aravalli is critical for the Survival of Delhi’ at Delhi’s India International Center recently.
Dr Hussian pointed out relentless mining to be the main reason for the plight of the Aravalli “These ranges contain a lot of zinc, marble, sandstone, sand, silica, quartz etc. Contractors have been heavily exploiting these rangers since 1990’s the exploitation has been particularly severe due to increased construction activities in the NCR. Illegal mining has been most severe in Rajasthan and Haryana due continuous mining as many as 50 hills have disappeared from these Ranges.”
Describing the Aravallis as India’s most abused hill ranges he explained its importance from the point of view of ground water recharge “They form the catchment of rivers and Nalas that come from the Hills. Aravalli hills are also important for the groundwater security and provide drinking water to millions. The weathered rocks of Aravalli are fissured and highly jointed these make ideal zones for percolation of rainwater and contribute to the aquifers below. Deep digging for mining purpose punctures the aquifers affecting the water retention capacity, lakes such as Jamwa Ramgarh are fast drying up and new artificial lakes are formed at the depression left by mining activities.”
He highlighted the importance of Aravalli from the ecological point of view “Running approximately 800 kms from Southwestern Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, these are the only major forest cover of these four states. Aravalli play a crucial role in shaping the climate and biodiversity of Western India. Aravalli also comprises of several national parks and sanctuaries housing hundreds of plants and animals species. As far as Delhi is concerned apart from Yamuna it is the Aravalli that is its lifeline.”
Dr Hussain established a direct link between loss of the Aravalli forest cover and declining amounts of rainfall “Data from Irrigation Department of Rajasthan shows that the duration of rainy season has shrunk from 101 days in 1973 to 46 days in 2010. This too would impact ground water recharge negatively.”