The National Human Rights Commission issued notices to the Centre and the governments of Rajasthan and Haryana on Wednesday over reports of deforestation in the Aravalli hills causing dust storms in the National Capital Region.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter, the human rights body said “the gravity of the issue demands proactive and effective measures” by authorities to stop the deforestation and degradation of the Aravallis.

Citing media reports, the panel said the open forest cover in the Aravallis had decreased in the last three decades, while the scrub increased by 5.7%, “making it almost barren without any moisture in the air”. It said that the deforestation “for business interests” in Rajasthan and Haryana had caused the dust storms and air pollution in Delhi and surrounding areas earlier this month.

The NHRC sought a response within six weeks from the chief secretaries of Rajasthan and Haryana and the secretary of the Union Environment Ministry.

“Heavy vegetation can prevent the situation from further deterioration and create a green barrier against the sand storm,” the NHRC said. “The citizens and the public authorities have to become more sensitive towards protecting the echo system around the mountains, which have continued to protect them.”

Frequent sandstorms have been reported across North India since the first week of May. The air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region was hazardous for several days earlier this month. A thick dusty haze remained in the sky for at least three days.