Undefined Aravalis Falling Prey to Mining as Bureaucrats Collude With Exploiters
By Archana Sharma | IANS
Believe it or not, the Aravalis — one of the oldest ranges in the world — remain undefined till date, leading to its steady depletion.
The Supreme Court recently expressed shock and surprise over how 31 Aravali hills have vanished in Rajasthan, stunning many. Greens, bureaucrats and forest officers who spoke to IANS say the reason for the destruction of the Aravalis is mainly one — the territory remains undefined. Greed follows.
According to an official from the Rajasthan mining department, Aravali has not been defined properly. A complete hill range has been split into two parts, Aravali and non-Aravali, posing challenges to policymakers.
In 2002, a committee formed by the Director of Mines defined that any hill above 100 metre slope shall be Aravali while anything less than that shall not be Aravali.
“This differentiation is surprising,” said the official. “How can a hill chain spread over thousands of kilometres be isolated from one another depending on its height?”
Another official from the same department says this demarcation has given room to illegal miners who began rampant mining in the hills with less than 100 metre height and hence certain hills started vanishing.
J.K. Upadhyay, Director of the Department of Mines and Geology, says that the 31 hills which have vanished from Rajasthan depleted between 1955 and 2018.
He wants a policy where a balancing formula between nature restoration and development can be made.
A renowned environmentalist, Harshwardhan, says that it was an irony that Rajasthan authorities were unable to outline which is the reserved Aravali region in Rajasthan or in neighbouring Haryana.
In the Supreme Court, justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta commented: “What is happening in Rajasthan? Humans seem to be flying away with hills just like Hanuman.”
A senior architect associated with many prestigious government projects says that Aravali hills have been exploited for money. At the same time, officials without any knowledge of heritage conservation have done whatever their political bosses ordered them to do vis-a-vis the hill range.
He alleged that some government servants were hand in glove with private entities to mint money from the hills.
B.S. Nathwat, a retired official, insists that a proper classification of Aravali hills is a must to preserve it.
“The definition given by the mining department that hills above 100 feet is Aravali and anything below that is non-Aravali is wrong.”
If a proper definition is not given, and soon, rampant illegal mining cannot be checked, he added. And even though mining has been banned in Aravali, sand is still being supplied from there.
Archana Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com