Sulagna Chattopadhyay
Geography and You, New Delhi.

Dams have changed river courses, consequently remodeling the topography. Roads and railways have been cut through forests and mountains, adding or removing topographical structures that brought forth a new skyline. But nothing could have prepared me for the visuals of mountains slashed away as published in several media reports. Entire districts it seems were levelled to the ground and below in just a couple of decades. Perhaps the mining and quarrying of the Aravalli is not new, but its prolific degradation is, as are the court injunctions and rulings that attempt to curb it. Recently, the Supreme Court banned mining activities in several severely degraded areas. The rulings, as it often happens in India, fell onto deaf ears and were flouted. Yet, I am hopeful that as people are made aware of the long-term losses due to the possible disappearance of the Aravalli, they will turn proactive in demanding greater action by the state and central governments. We, I believe, need a sustainable plan that entwines concerns related to unrestricted spread of built-up area, access to basic amenities and resources and water-intensive cropping pattern for the region as a whole—opening yet another discussion on regional vs district model of planning. We have to be able to weave livelihood issues into a real-world matrix where environmentally benign alternatives exist and where ‘bada gadi’ (large car) and ‘bada ghar’ (large house) are no longer aspirational, instead quality of life with the right to clean air, soil and water is.