What is Desertification?
- Land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas brought about by factors such as climatic variations and human activities is called as desertification.
Shrinking of forests in ‘gap areas’
- The Aravalis have always acted as a barrier to sand migration.
- The direction of wind is mainly from south-west and north-east. The movements of sand dunes also follow the same direction.
- However there are some forested areas in the region that prevent the shifting of sand dunes and spread of deserts.
- The forested areas in Aravalis help in checking both wind velocity and evaporation to prevent sand migration from the Thar Desert.
- These forested areas are found in 12 gap areas in Haryana and Rajasthan.
- These gaps extend from Magra peak in Ajmer, Rajasthan, to the rises in Madhogarh and Khetri in Jhunjhunu district, and the hills towards the north of Mahendragarh district in Haryana.
- The lush green forests of the ‘gap areas’ acted as a green barrier and a shield against desertification.
- This helps to check the spread of the Indian desert towards eastern Rajasthan, Indo-Gangetic plains, Haryana and west UP.
- In the recent years the green cover of the gap areas has significantly declined.
- The decline of forested areas in gap areas can be attributed to severe deforestation and mining.
- The gap areas devoid of forest cover are allowing dust migration from Rajasthan.
- This is causing climate change and increase in dust storms in Delhi-NCR.
- Loss of vegetation, water run-off and water bodies are leading to environmental destruction in the area.
- According to a study by Wildlife Institute of India, a number of regions in Aravalis are increasingly turning barren.
- As a result the expanse of Thar desert in widening to eastern Rajasthan, Indo-Gangetic plains, Haryana and western UP.
Data from 1980 to 2016
- According to a survey the range has shrunk by 40% from 10,462 square kilometres in 1972-75 to 6,116 sqkm in 2016.
- Perennial river areas have shrunk 33% (8.2sqkm to 5.5sqkm)
- Non-perennial, have shrunk to 97% (5sqkm to 0.14sqkm).
- Barren areas have increased from 102sqkm to 107sqkm
- Scrub land from 390sqkm to 413sqkm.
- Natural forested areas have degraded from 119.68sqkm in 1980 to 119.36 sqkm in 2016.
Importance of Aravalis
- The Aravallis are the oldest fold mountain ranges in India cutting across Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west to Haryana and Delhi in the east.
- The ecological significance of Aravalis includes:
- Combating desertification
- Acts as water divide for important drainage systems.
- Enhances precipitation and checks droughts in the region.
- It prevents floods by acting as a barrier to rain-bearing winds heading towards the deserts of Rajasthan.
- Rich habitat for biodiversity including jackal, neelgai, mongoose besides more than 100 bird species.
- Aravalis is an important groundwater recharge zone and crucial for groundwater security of south Haryana towns like Gurgaon and Faridabad.
- Thus Aravalis have been instrumental in shaping the climate of the upper Indo-Gangetic plain.
What causes Desertification in Aravalis?
- As seen above severe deforestation and mining have resulted in decline in forest cover of ‘gap areas’.
- Illegal mining and construction activities in Aravalis have continuously degraded the area.
- In 2002 the Supreme Court imposed ban on mining in the Aravalli region in Haryana.
- Besides according to a Supreme Court appointed committee area under illegal mining had increased substantially from 2010.
- Further Aravalis has always been viewed as a local issue.
- Absence of strong laws and weak enforcement of existing laws.
- Recently NHRC has asked the states of Haryana, Rajasthan to act against deforestation jointly.
- The revival plan of Aravalis should be a joint effort of the concerned states as part of their disaster management plans.
- Effective enforcement of laws in the area including decrees of the apex court imposing a ban on mining and construction activities in the region.
Section : Environment & Ecology