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Aravalli Range: India’s Oldest and Most Threatened Mountain

The Aravalli Range, the oldest fold mountain in India and one of the oldest in the world, is facing multiple threats from mining, deforestation, encroachment and urbanization. The 692-km-long range, which spans across four states — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi — has a rich natural and cultural heritage, but is also one of the most degraded forest ranges in the country.

According to a study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the Aravalli Range has lost most of its indigenous plant species and wildlife habitats due to developmental activities that are gradually destroying the remnants of the hills. The range is home to many endemic and endangered species of flora and fauna, such as leopards, sloth bears, nilgai, chinkara, blackbuck, peafowl, vultures and crocodiles. It also serves as a natural barrier to the expansion of the Thar Desert and influences the climate and rainfall patterns of the region.

The Aravalli Range also has a history that dates back to about 1.8 billion years ago, when the Indian Plate was separated from the Eurasian Plate by an ocean. The Aravalli-Delhi Orogeny was a major event that resulted in the collision and folding of the crust, creating the Aravalli Range and other related features. The range has witnessed the rise and fall of many civilizations and kingdoms, and is dotted with many forts, palaces, temples and monuments that reflect the heritage and diversity of the region.

However, despite its significance and value, the Aravalli Range is not adequately protected by law or policy. The range is not officially notified as a forest in many parts, leaving it open to illegal mining, quarrying and encroachment. The Haryana government has also changed the definition of the Aravalli Range to exclude some areas from its purview. The Supreme Court has banned mining in the range, but it continues unabated in some places.

Environmentalists and activists have been raising their voice against the destruction of the Aravalli Range and demanding its conservation and protection. They have also been highlighting the importance of the range for the ecological security and sustainability of India. Some initiatives have also been taken by the government and civil society to restore and revive the forest cover and biodiversity of the range.

The Aravalli Range is a precious natural resource that needs urgent attention and action from all stakeholders. It is not only India’s oldest fold mountain, but also its most threatened one.

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