Stitch In Time
Once again the apex court has had to step in to avert a disaster. The wanton exploitation of western India’s Aravali by the mining industry has been degrading the range with lakes drying up, forests getting denuded and the entire ecosystem affected. Terming the environment and ecology as national assets, the Supreme Court has ruled that all mining activity in the Aravali hills must be suspended — at least in the 448 sq km area spread across Faridabad, Gurgaon and Mewat regions — matching approximately a third of the capital’s land area in size. Will the state governments take the ban seriously?
It is unlikely that the rape of the hills would have received so much public attention if it were not for a persistent media campaign led by this newspaper, and for the fact that there is a growing groundswell of resentment against environmental exploitation among the general public. In a democracy, public opinion does matter and this has been evident in the way other have been acted upon by the judiciary, prompted by public interest litigation and civil society initiatives. A case in point is the campaign against air pollution that resulted in the conversion of Delhi’s buses, taxis and autorickshaws to the less polluting compressed natural gas for fuel.
Most of the minor mining is carried out to meet the rising demand for construction material like sand and gravel. Trees have been cut down without initiating new tree planting projects as part of reparation and compensation. These are clearly mentioned as statutory requirements but are mostly ignored by the participants.
The court has stated in its judgment that environment and ecology are subject to inter-generational equity, and hence the principle of sustainable development ought to be respected. The mining ban in the Aravalis will continue until a reclamation plan is submitted in accordance with the existing legal provisions. Many of the mining leases were granted by state governments without the requisite clearances — that would have taken into account environmental impact assessments and reparation plans — and with complete disregard of the rule book. There is a need for coordination between central and state authorities as well as civil society groups to ensure that statutes are followed. Post-July, when the court considers requests to reopen the hills for minor mining projects, it must take a decision after examining the results of an unbiased audit report.
- Posted in: SAVE THE ARRAVALI CAMPAIGN - TIMES OF INDIA