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Activists say forests key to groundwater recharge

 

The Times of India, New Delhi, November 24, 2013

The Haryana government may not have considered declaring Mangar to be a forest or Mangar Bani an eco-sensitive zone but environmentalists are certain about its wildlife and groundwater recharge potential.

 

Snow Leopard Trust had conducted a survey this June, revealing "unmistakable" evidence of wildlife and presence of leopards. According to the survey, Mangar is important as it's situated just 5km from the Asola Bhatti sanctuary and within 100 kilometres of Sariska Tiger Reserve. Striped hyena and black-napped hare have been also been seen here.

"Villagers have seen leopards several times. They have killed our cattle. There are different varieties of hare, jackals, jungle cats, kala teetar, parrots and other birds are seen here," said Snuil Harsana, a former secretary of the village development committee in Mangar.

 

Wildlife biologist Vidhya Athreya prefers to go with villagers. "When I was doing my project on leopards in Maharashtra, we wouldn't believe villagers about leopard sightings but eventually realized that their claims were accurate. I have heard about the presence of leopards and jungle cats in the Faridabad-Gurgaon area," she said.

 

Apart from acting as a natural barrier to dust and desert winds from Rajasthan, the Mangar forests also act as a huge groundwater recharge zone. "The entire ridge in Delhi and Faridabad is an important area for Delhi aquifers. Central Ground Water Board hasn't done a separate analysis of Mangar but we can say it plays a vital role in water supply for Delhi," said A D Rao, superintending hydro-geologist of the board.

 

The Aravalis include the catchment of Badhkal, Surajkund, Peacock, Dhauj (Faridabad district) and Damdama (Gurgaon district) lakes, which are critical for groundwater recharge and flow to villages and cities downstream.

 

"The Aravalis have high secondary porosity, and the groundwater recharge at 33.3% of average annual rainfall of 600mm per year is 20 lakh litres per hectare per year. This, when valued at 10 paise per litre, is worth Rs 2 lakh per year. Therefore, by simple addition, it is worth Rs 40 lakh over 20 years," said environmental analyst Chetan Agarwal.

 

According to local property dealers, the current value of land in these hills is Rs 45 lakh to Rs 1 crore per acre. "The real estate market will come crashing down as soon as the regional plan 2021 adds strict environmental safeguards to it. We hope Mangar is saved," added Agarwal.