The Land of the Vanishing Lakes
Source: Toxics Alert, Date: November , 2009
- Why are the Aravalli Mountains so important?
The Aravallis are important for a number of reasons: to protect NCR Delhi from advancement of the Thar desert in the NCR, to save human life and civilization from onslaught of environmental degradation, to save Delhi from rising pollution and shortage of ground water. The Supreme Court of India has upheld the ecological importance of the Aravallis through various Judgments/ Orders. These prohibit all non-forestry activities on forest areas. The Aravallis were Panchayat land/common lands. However, these have now been grabbed by the landmafia, farmhouses owners, colonizers for commercial or putting it to non-forestry uses. Once these non-forestry works are allowed those will destroy ecosystem completely and once the ecosystem is lost, thousands of years work of nature will be lost for ever. Due to biotic pressure and extreme environmental it is not possible to restore once lost ecosystem.
- What is the ground level situation in the Aravalli belt, the NCR in particular?
In Haryana these Panchayat /common land of Aravalli hills ecosystem have been grabbed by land sharks who are slowly clearing the vegetation cover in violation of the Forest Conservation Act 1980.Reportedly, illegal Mining by alluring local people had been done on number of places.
- What was your role in bringing to notice the illegal activities in the Aravallis?
Illegal activities (mining, farm houses, colonization and other non forestry works) were stopped at number of places and disciplinary action was taken. Large scale violations were brought on records and matter was reported to the Central Empowered Committee, New Delhi.
- Did you receive any kind of threats during your mission?
Threats were used at number of times.Our team and forest teams were attacked. FIR`s were lodged against this. Issue was also reported to Government Of Haryana.
- You were talking about bureaucratic, political and mining nexus. Were there not any honest officers during your period who supported your mission?
Honest officers were there, but they were scared from mighty power, some of them provided moral support but were unable to provide real help in front of powerful nexus of corrupt officers. Nexus of corruption had been so powerful that they had not allowed any action against corrupt officer or politicians or land grabber.
- Do you think the government can revive the Surajkund, Badkhal and Dumduma water bodies before the Commonwealth games as they have promised? And do they have an ecologically safe and sustainable plan?
Unless desired catchment areas of these water bodies are not restored to forestry, water bodies’ revival is difficult. Wastewater concept from thermal power plant does not appear feasible due to inherent problems. Keeping in mind non-availability of water it is a very remote possibility to fill these water bodies.
- What is the alternate course of action that you would suggest to revive the eco-system of the Aravallis and in the process also hopefully revive the lakes?
The only sustainable solution available is back to nature by restoring desired catchment area of these water bodies. One option is to carry out large scale plantations in catchment areas; rain water gets absorbed by roots of trees and is released slowly to these water bodies. Needless to say, all farm houses and non-forestry works from catchment areas must be removed.