Decline of the Aravallis
the Aravalli range, stretching from Palanpur in Gujarat to Delhi, divides Rajasthan into three distinct climatic regions. The Udaipur zone of the range is estimated to be around 300 million years old. It is, therefore, not surprising that the range is a unique amphitheatre of biological diversity. But with the man-animal conflict on the increase, it is feared that the spectacular biodiversity of the Aravallis will be totally lost by the mid 21st century.
Due to its geographical location, the range harbours a mix of Saharan, Ethiopian, peninsular, oriental and even Malayan elements of flora and fauna. However, very few studies have been carried out on the ecology of this mountain system.
In the early part of this century, the Aravallis were well wooded. Even when I was a student at Mt Abu during 1938-41 and 1944-46, I roamed around in dense forests with waterfalls everywhere and even encountered a large number of wild animals. Today, the changes in the environment at Mt Abu are unmistakable.
The foothills of the Aravallis on the west fall in the rain shadow of the 1,721-metre-high hill Guru Shikar and a number of dry deciduous desert plants like babool have overgrown the land. On the eastern rain-fed foothills, the vegetation is typical of sub-humid climate: date palm and other trees. In the higher altitudes the vegetation is mesic: mostly sagwan and sheesham. The bushes are dominated by karonda and thor .
Though we find a number of tree species in the hills, timber quality trees have almost disappeared. Hillock after hillock used to be covered by bamboo.Today, bamboo clumps survive only near temples or forest outposts.
However, distribution of wildlife was not restricted to regions as in the case of vegetation. The lion, which is presently restricted to the Sason Gir sanctuary of Gujarat, was found on the southwestern foothills of Aravallis. But after the killing of two lionesses at Anadra in 1862 these majestic beasts have not been spotted in the region.
The tiger, panther, leopard and sloth bear were very common, too. Middle sized carnivores like the jungle cat, civet, carcal, wolf, jackal and mongoose were found in abundance. Herbivorous large mammals like the wild boar, sambhar and spotted deer were plentiful. The chinkara , black buck and the blue bull were found in the foot hills. The jungle fowl was the pride of Abu hill.
Today the region presents a vastly different scenario. Tigers, medium sized carnivores and the herbivores have all vanished. Panthers are invading villages for food. The remaining population of sloth bears is thriving on lantana berries. The only species untouched is the primates which are protected by religious sentiment.
The British had promulgated a legislation