As we keep searching for centuries-old tangible evidence of heritage in Gurugram, we often forget how lucky we are to have a portion of the one of the oldest mountain ranges of India and the world, the Aravallis, in our city and district. The Aravallis are even older than the Himalayas in terms of geological time. As per high-resolution satellite imagery records of 2013, the Aravalli hills in Gurugram district occupy an area of 11,256 hectares, of which 491 (4.36%) hectares had mines while 16 hectares (0.14%) are abandoned flooded mines. The diverse physiography of Gurugram district thus comprises this extension of the Aravalli hills along with sand dunes, sandy and alluvial plans and a small percentage of open forests.
This natural heritage of our region not only has a rich biodiversity, but also covers several areas of archaeological finds and sacred groves. The most detailed ecological mapping of land use and land cover in Aravallis in Haryana was conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India in 2017. It also showed the presence of mammalian species that may have further depleted. The report has important recommendations on how to sustain and conserve the existing patches of green cover, flora and fauna in Gurugram and Haryana through two possible nature conservation approaches: the biosphere reserve or the island biogeography with protected corridors. Crossing zones for wildlife in corridors such as Gurugram-Faridabad and others are essential for this purpose.
The British had allocated the Aravallis in Gurugram area as “gair mumkin pahar” since they considered these hills unfit for cultivation; a name that continues in the current forest records even in their protected status under the Forest Act. Environmentalist Pradip Krishen explains the significance of the Mangan Bari forest area with dhau plantation and its associational values for the local people as a sacred grove of Gudariya Baba. It is this association of the villagers that served in protecting this forest patch till now, despite the surrounding urban development. It has to be realised that an important aspect of conserving such nature-culture heritage elements resides in the associational value that strengthens and goes beyond legal acts of protection at times.
Interestingly, the Aravallis have also served as a haven for renowned archaeologists like Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti and Nayanjot Lahiri who discovered several ancient stone tools while exploring these areas. As per them, the stone tools belong from the lower Palaeolithic to the Mesolithic period and they have even suggested the possibility of Stone Age tool-making factories in this area.
The 1979-80 period surveys conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India in the current Gurugram district also records 28 sites including a historical mound at Sikanderpur, yielding late Harrapan and Ochre-coloured pottery, thus establishing the archaeological significance of this landform.
It is now time that we seriously understand this cultural landscape setting for Gurugram with its collective significance of associational, historical and environmental values, and conserve the remains of this ancient mountain range with limited sustainable development. Initiatives by NGOs like I Am Gurgaon have already created benchmarks in this direction.
Jun 10, 2019 05:26 IST
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