The Aravali hills have been used to nature’s erosion over billions of years, however the assault on them in the previous few many years by these eyeing its wealthy sources was one thing else. Will the Supreme Courtroom’s current intervention halt this? Ramesh Menon experiences.
06 September 2020 –
In late August, the Supreme Courtroom ordered the demolition of quite a few farm-houses constructed within the fragile ecosystem of the Aravali vary in Haryana. This was in Bandhwari, lower than two kilometres from the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway buzzing with exercise. However this space can also be a conservation zone.
Taking suo moto cognisance of a report in The Occasions of India of how a hillock had been flattened to construct an strategy highway to numerous illegally constructed farmhouses, the court docket ordered the state to take motion and submit a report back to on what it had achieved. State authorities who had seemed the opposite approach all these years whereas large palatial farmhouses have been developing within the protected areas within the Aravali vary of mountains, have been immediately galvanised into motion.
With bulldozers they demolished almost 50 farm-houses. Many have been in use, in some instances as costly resorts, and a few others have been underneath development. The house owners had not cared to take any permission to construct homes within the mountainous ranges, presumably as a result of on this zone they might not have been granted such permission. As a substitute, they gambled that after the homes have been erected, they might on the most pay a positive and get them regularised.
The demolitions carried out by the Division of City and Nation Planning and the Municipal Company of Gurgaon occurred solely due to the intervention of the Supreme Courtroom.
However why ought to it take an apex court docket order to cease such blatant violations? How may one thing as huge as this occur regardless of orders of each the Punjab and Haryana Excessive Courtroom and the Supreme Courtroom that particularly mentioned that no development should happen in a chosen pure conservation zone. Tall partitions have been constructed round most of the homes to maintain prying eyes away. In the present day, all of this has been lowered to rubble.
An alluring goal for exploitation
The 692-kilometres vary of mountains unfold throughout Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat is round two billion years outdated. A few of the peaks rise to a top of 5650 ft. The Aravalis got here into existence via numerous tectonic collisions between a pre-Indian sub-continent and the bigger Eurasian Plate. The vary is way older than the Himalayas, and scientific analysis means that they have been as soon as a lot greater, and have been eroded all the way down to at present’s heights over time.
The hills and the lands round them are wealthy in minerals, with reserves of rose-coloured quartz, zinc, copper, lead, gypsum, marble and soapstone. The vary additionally has quite a few stones which are simply floor to a gravel for the exploding ever-demanding actual property sector within the Nationwide Capital Area. Such sources have inevitably attracted the eye of lots of people looking for to take advantage of them, and nudging pliant governments to look the opposite approach whereas they did so.
That been happening for many years. A research by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India labelled it essentially the most degraded forest vary in India. Round seventy years in the past, the Aravali ranges have been lush with vegetation, wildlife and wildlife. There may be documented proof of the existence of leopards, striped hyenas, golden jackals, nilgais, palm civets, wild pigs, rhesus macaque, pea fowls and Indian crested procupines. In the present day, you can be fortunate to identify any of them. Rivers too have vanished – the Banas, Luni, Sahibi and Sakhi are all no extra.
Strain from the mining and actual property industries has stored many areas from being declared forest lands. In Haryana, the forest cowl at present is a mere 4 %, however a a lot bigger space may simply be designated for forest safety. The state has additionally not proven curiosity in declaring areas within the Aravali as Pure Conservation Zones, says Chetan Aggarwal, a forest environmentalist, who typically visits the Mangar Bani forests close to his home. He hopes that the island of greenery round him doesn’t additionally vanish sooner or later.
The Aravali can also be a vital watershed for the Nationwide Capital Area, says environmentalist Chandra Bhushan. Within the megalopolis, the demand for water is rising relentlessly, and it is just a matter of time earlier than an over-exploited area turns into unable to offer water to the town adequately.
Sixteen years in the past, a Supreme Courtroom order had banned mining in lots of ranges of the Aravali, however that did not cease something. A report of the Comptroller and Auditor Common of India mentioned that 98.87 lakh metric tonnes of minerals have been illegally mined within the years between 2011 and 2017. Actual property builders, encroachers, miners and businessmen additionally raced to construct farm homes as their weekend retreats.
In 2018, the Supreme Courtroom ordered Rajasthan to crack down on mining exercise, because it was instructed by a court-appointed Central Empowerment Committee that as many as 31 hillocks have disappeared within the Aravali. The Committee mentioned that unlawful mining was prevalent in 15 districts of Rajasthan. The state was at the moment incomes round Rs.5000 crores from the mining firms, however the court docket remarked, “For the sake of some mining firms, you’re placing the lives of lakhs of individuals in peril.” That stinging comment had little impact.
A helpful precedent
Will the flattening of the flamboyant farm-houses galvanise the governments in Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Gujarat to equally crackdown on the true property mafia and personal encroachers who’ve taken over forest land or destroyed it down the years? As no state authorities has proven the need or dedication to diligently do that, it’s extremely unlikely.
There may be sufficient proof to proceed towards the defaulters, says lawyer-activist M.C. Mehta who has fought many a battle in court docket towards these out to destroy and pollute the nation’s surroundings. Mere court docket orders is not going to do, he says, as there needs to be a political will to avoid wasting the surroundings and the knowledge of realising that it’s going to negatively influence all of us. Haryana may have acted by itself with out being pressured to, he added.
Nonetheless, one ray of hope is that environmental activists can now relaxation within the hope that this judgment may be quoted in different comparable instances elsewhere within the nation to make sure that there’s a worry of the legislation and that destruction of the surroundings in protected areas doesn’t occur that simply. The true property sharks would in all probability tread in larger worry than earlier than. Constructing a construction in an space the place there needs to be no development after which watching it being razed to the bottom could deter some.
Ramesh Menon is an writer, senior journalist and documentary movie maker. He gained the Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism for a chunk he wrote for India Collectively.