The NHRC has issued notices to the Centre and the governments of Rajasthan and Haryana over reported “massive deforestation” in the Aravalli hills “causing dust storms” in the national capital region. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in a statement said, “Reportedly, the open forest cover in the Aravalli hills has decreased in the last three decades while the scrub has increased by 5.7 per cent, making it almost barren without any moisture in the air.”
The NHRC has issued notices to the chief secretaries of the governments of Rajasthan and Haryana as well as the secretary of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and sought their response in six weeks. “The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that massive deforestation in Aravalli hills for business interests in Rajasthan and Haryana is the root cause behind the increasing dust storms and air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region during the past several days creating health concerns,” the statement said.
The Commission has observed that the gravity of the issue demands “proactive and effective measures” by the authorities concerned to stop deforestation and degradation of the famed hill range. Heavy vegetation can prevent the situation from further deterioration and create a green barrier against the sand storm, it said.
Accordingly, the notices have been issued in order to know the steps being taken or proposed to be taken by them on the matter.
The media reports have quoted the findings of studies conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India and the Amity School of Earth and Environmental Sciences as well as several other experts in this regard, the rights panel said. According to them, the Aravalli range, extending over 690 km from Palampur in Gujarat to Delhi through Rajasthan and Haryana, has stood strong against the advancement of the Thar desert for more than three billion years, it said.
“If its degradation is not checked, the day is not far when its desertification will badly affect a host of ecosystem, including rain, ground water level, control of temperature, trapping of dust and pollutants, and habitat for hundreds of flora and fauna,” the NHRC statement said.