As India’s National Capital Region remains gripped in severe air pollution,750 school students from Gurgaon and Faridabad got together on December 13, 2022, to celebrate ‘Aravalli Day’. The young ones were joined by their teachers, Dr Rajendra Singh popularly known as the Waterman of India, Diwan Singh from the Ridge Bachao Andolan, Haji Ibrahim from the Mewat Jal Biradari and other citizens.
“Aravalli Day intends to bring attention to threats facing our important pollution sink, barrier against desertification, water recharge zone and wildlife habitat. Mining has already destroyed more than 25 percent of the Aravallis which is billions of years old and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. We are scared that if we do not act now, in a few years Aravallis will just remain a chapter in our geography textbooks,” said Nevaeh Kapoor, Class VI student of Heritage XPeriential Learning School in Gurugram.
In a press conference held in the forest, the students talked about their concerns and demands to save what is left of India’s oldest mountain range to secure their future.
“Along with mining and real estate development in the Aravallis, the threat of the ill-conceived NCR Draft Regional Plan 2041 still looms strong on our heads. This plan if implemented will wipe out more than 70 percent of our precious Aravallis and other natural ecosystems like man-made water bodies, tributaries and floodplains of rivers and take away the measly 10 percent forest target for the four highly polluted NCR states. Aravallis are the green lungs and only barrier protecting millions of people living in Delhi-NCR from the sand storms coming from the Thar desert. Additionally, Aravallis with their natural cracks and fissures have the potential to put two million litres of water per hectare in the ground every year,” said Mansa Rout, a Class IX student from DPS, Faridabad.
Students hugged trees in a symbolic ‘Chipko Movement’ enactment and formed a human chain against the backdrop of the Aravalli hills to show their solidarity with their llifeline for clean air and water security.
“Our demand is for laws to be strengthened to enhance protection to our Aravallis and ecological planning to be made an integral part of developmental plans to protect our highly endangered future. We also demand that the entire Aravalli range running across the four states of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat must be declared a biosphere reserve and an ecological heritage site where no further mining, deforestation, construction and industry is allowed,” said Lakshay, Class IX student from Shiksha Bharti Public School In Gurugram.
Dr Rajendra Singh, Chairman of the People’s World Commission on Drought and Flood, who joined the students to commemorate ‘Aravalli Day’ said, “NCR Draft Regional Plan 2041 in its current form is a real disaster and cannot be implemented. All the Aravalli hills and forests, wetlands, rivers along with their tributaries and floodplains, lakes, natural and man-made water bodies etc, irrespective of whether they are notified or not, mentioned in the revenue records or identified in ground truthing exercises, must get protection under the new Draft Regional Plan 2041 and the forest cover target should majorly be increased.”
On December 13, school students also asked for revision in the regressive NCR Draft Plan 2041. More than 250 children collected near the Hindon, tributary of the Yamuna river and in the Aravalli hills in Nimli in Alwar district in Rajasthan to demand removal of environmental dilutions in this regional plan impacting millions of residents in 25+ districts across the four states. “Another very important demand from the students is that Hardeep Puri, the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs fulfills the promise he made to us in September this year where he promised us that he would organise a stakeholder conference,” said Krishna, Class IX student of Sugam School in Gurgaon.