The Aravalli Green Wall Project was recently launched in India. It is a major initiative to green a 5 km buffer area around the Aravalli Hill Range in four states. The goal is to revive the Aravallis through various initiatives like a single-use plastic ban, water conservation efforts, and natural resources protection. Read here to learn more about the Aravallis Project.
The Aravalli Range is arguably the oldest geological feature on Earth having its origin in the Proterozoic era. It is the oldest range of fold mountains in India.
It spans the north-western region of India, running approximately 670 km, starting near Delhi, passing through southern Haryana, and Rajasthan, and ending in Ahmedabad Gujarat. The highest peak is Guru Shikhar on Mount Abu at 1,722 m (5,650 ft).
Over the past four decades, it has been destroyed by mining, deforestation, and over-exploitation of its fragile and ancient water channels.
The Aravalli Range’s natural history goes back to a time when there was an ocean between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate.
- The range rose in a Precambrian event called the Aravalli-Delhi Orogen.
- The range, formed by folding, an orogenic process, is one of the oldest mountain ranges of the world and predates the formation of the Himalayan ranges.
- The fold mountains are formed by the movement of convergent plate boundaries and subsequent folding.
- The mountains are divided into two main ranges- the Sāmbhar Sirohi Range and the Sambhar Khetri Range in Rajasthan, with an extension of about 560 km.
- There are also endemic plants, mushrooms, spiders, even a frog, toad, snake, and numerous other creatures that exist only in the Aravalli; many of these are under-studied and their abundance is unknown.
The climate of northwest India and beyond is impacted by the Aravallis.
- The mountain range nurtures the sub-Himalayan rivers and feeds the north Indian plains by gently guiding the monsoon clouds eastward towards Shimla and Nainital during monsoon season.
- It shields the productive alluvial river valleys (such as the para-Indus and Gangetic) from the harsh winter winds that blow in from Central Asia.
- The Aravallis also impact the groundwater along the areas they pass through.
Aravalli green wall project
The Aravalli Green Wall Project is part of the Union Environment Ministry’s vision to create green corridors across the country to combat land degradation and desertification.
The project covers the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Delhi – where the Aravalli hills landscape span over 6 million hectares of land.
The project will involve planting native species of trees and shrubs on scrubland, wasteland, and degraded forest land, along with rejuvenating and restoring surface water bodies such as ponds, lakes, and streams.
The project will also focus on agroforestry and pasture development to enhance the livelihoods of local communities.
The Aravalli Green Wall Project has the following objectives:
- Improving the ecological health of the Aravalli range
- To prevent the eastward expansion of the Thar Desert and to reduce land degradation by creating green barriers that will prevent soil erosion, desertification, and dust storms
- This green wall will help in carbon sequestration and mitigating climate change to enhance the biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Aravalli range by planting native tree species in the Aravalli region, providing habitat for wildlife, and improving water quality and quantity.
- Promote sustainable development and livelihood opportunities by involving local communities in afforestation, agroforestry, and water conservation activities that will generate income, employment, food security, and social benefits.
- The project will be executed by various stakeholders such as central and state governments, forest departments, research institutes, civil society organizations, private sector entities, and local communities. Adequate funding, technical skills, policy coordination, and public awareness will be called upon to ensure the success of the project.
- Contribute to India’s commitments under various international conventions such as UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity), and UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).
- Enhancing India’s image as a global leader in environmental protection and green development.
Significance of the Aravalli Green Wall Project
A National Action Plan to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation Through Forestry Interventions was also unveiled along with the project. This provides the significance of launching the Aravalli green wall project as well.
- Over the past four decades, it has been destroyed by mining, deforestation, and over-exploitation of its fragile and ancient water channels.
- The threat of desertification spreading east of Aravalli has reached alarming levels.
- Depleting groundwater levels and breach of the Aravalli range due to change in topography by anthropogenic activities in Haryana, at least 12 places, in a report published by the Wildlife Institute of India.
- To achieve India’s goal of restoring 26 million hectares (mha) of its land, the Aravali has been chosen as one of the important degraded zones to be taken up for greening.
- Delhi, Gujarat, and Rajasthan all have more than 50% of their land deteriorated, according to an ISRO assessment from 2016.
The plan is inspired by Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall’ project, running from Senegal (West) to Djibouti (East), which came into effect in 2007.
The topography, geology, forests, soils, and water of the Aravallis have shaped the region’s history and will continue to shape much of northwest India’s future.
We risk far more than we can even begin to imagine if we damage the oldest mountain range in the world by mining its rocks, digging its soils, killing the trees that precariously support a thin soil cover, or carelessly extracting the historic water courses.
It is good that the government is taking initiative to protect the Aravallis. However, the project may not have the desired impact unless, among other issues, the illegal mining widespread in the area is curbed.
There shouldn’t be any further exploitation or diversion of the Aravallis for any commercial, industrial, or mining purpose. Without such a holistic approach, schemes like the Green Wall may not have the desired impact.
-Article written by Swathi Satish