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Flattening an Aravalli hill harms Gurgaon first

Updated September 1, 2020 14:11 IST
The Manger Bani sacred forest in the Aravallis in Gurgaon (Rahul Kumar)

We had three interesting photographs from ‘Millennium City’ Gurgaon in the last fortnight. The first one—the most eye-catching visual of all, had three enterprising men set sail in a motorized raft on the road-turned-waterways of Gurgaon.

The second showed Gurgaon underpasses full to the brim, with water touching the ceiling. If only this tons of water was in the lakes and ponds instead of the roads, it would have been picture-perfect.

The third visual was the flattening of a hill in the Aravallis. Reportedly, a green hill was flattened by owners and developers of 50 farmhouses and resorts. Most probably, some of the rocks and soil from the hill will go into the making of other mountains—landfill mountains that dot the peripheries of our cities. Possibly, some of the rubble from the hill was dumped in low-lying areas, ponds, lakes and forest areas. Anyway, the Gurgaon authorities swung into action and flattened those 50 properties in three decisive days, even though they could not detect the illegal activities over a couple of years.

The Aravalli ranges are one of the oldest mountains in the world with interesting rocks (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

The millennials of Gurgaon showered their anger through perfect puns and deluged the social media with photographs of non-perennial rivers taking a shortcut through city roads. On unfamiliar terrain, the rainwater lost its way and stayed put in the city—leading to much mirth, and dispelling for a brief while the gloom that the coronavirus had wreaked on the people.

Before we blame climate change or the other fashionable term before that—global warming, let us understand these too-frequent phenomena by a simpler term—the man-nature conflict. A one-sided conflict which is driven by none other than the insatiable greed of developers and contractors, furthered by unmitigated corruption in multiple government departments and exacerbated by willful town planners.

The Aravalli forests are rich in biodiversity and teem with wildlife (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

The powers that propel our cities have to understand that Gurgaon wouldn’t be Gurgaon if it wasn’t built on the Aravalli mountains and nestled amidst its forests. It would be like any other city in the vicinity of Delhi—deriving its glory from India’s power center and ultra-rich capital. If Gurgaon has to retain its glory, it has to begin by protecting the Aravallis. Protection begins by first sweeping out the developers, contractors and their ilk from the Aravallis, followed by replanting and restoring the ecology of areas which have been laid barren by the bulldozer, and lastly through town planning that is not driven by reckless and wasteful construction.

The Aravallis have been around for millennia—much before us and much before the mighty but newly-formed Himalayas. Large parts of the range from Delhi to parts of Haryana and onwards to Rajasthan and Gujarat has been cut down and ferried away for stone and marble. Much of this ravaging has been done illegally and against the orders of the Supreme Court as well.

The Asola Bhatti sanctuary on the borders of Delhi, Faridabad and Gurgaon is part of the south Delhi ridge forest (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

To protect the 800-km Aravalli chain from Delhi to Gujarat will automatically protect the sources of air and water for the mega urban conglomeration of Gurgaon-Delhi, besides many other towns and cities in Rajasthan. This will also preserve the identity and glory of Gurgaon. As we delve on the city-worthiness of Gurgaon, we cannot de-link it from that of the Aravallis—one of the oldest mountain chains of the world. A healthy Aravalli will confer the same benefits to Gurgaon.

Meanwhile, the residents have folded up their raft till the next rains, the civic agencies are pumping out water from the underpasses, the owners of 50 farmhouses are wondering if they should scout for other hills to flatten and some angry Gurgaonites are looking for the wise men who christened their city—‘Millennium City.’

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