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23.6.10 desert is expanding in Rajasthan. And, the hazard of desertification is threatening the pilgrimage centre of Pushkar the most.

According to a study conducted by multi-disciplinary team of scientists and practitioners from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and IIT Kharagpur, various causes for desertification have been found, but experts involved in the study have largely attributed it to the unabated mining in Aravalli ranges. The experts have found severe destruction of vegetation during the past, largely due to mining in the ranges. 

"Climate change alone is not responsible for desertification in Rajasthan as human intervention, mainly the mining activity, is adding to the desertification. Besides, location of the zone along the fringe of the desert, and its inherent vulnerable nature due to its terrain characteristics with the Aravallis, are other factors leading to desertification in Budha Pushkar region,'' said the experts in their study. The study was taken up with sanctions from the state government, including endorsement from chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

The study also attributes this to a lack of understanding of the type of response of the terrain to indiscriminate human activities, and a reluctance to take any measure to stabilize the ecosystem by people living in the area. This has resulted in destruction of natural vegetation, accelerated the movement of sand from the formerly well-stabilized dunes and sandy plains, and deteriorated the lake environment.

Besides, the predominant wind direction in Rajasthan is South West to North East, so the tendency for desertification has been more in that direction. "Indeed, there is clear evidence that the Thar Desert is expanding in an eastward as well as northeast direction in other places too,'' said P Goswami, one of the experts involved in the study. 

Experts have suggested that the Thar Desert, is a dominantly monsoon driven sand desert where wind erosion is a major problem during the summer months of March to July. While the Aravalli range is a major barrier in the spread of the desert, rampant mining creating cuts in the range is leading to the spread of the desert. 

"The Pushkar area has a lot of cuts in the Aravalli range. Besides, mine spoils in 8-10% of the area around Jodhpur have not been restored. Other factors that are leading to desertification are excess ground water usage, cultivation of water guzzling crops and the demand for infrastructure that is leading to illegal mining,'' said Dr L N Harsh, principal scientist, Central Arid Zone Research Jodhpur. 

The study has further predicted that due to climate change, there may be a significant increase in the desert area over India in the next 100 years with potentially disproportionate impact of global warming on coupled human and natural systems.



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