‘State ravaged by savage mining’

English: Aravalli Range inside Ranthambhore, R...

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PUSHKAR: From a distance, the scraped hill, minuscule in scale, seemed a work of the past. But a closer view revealed the machinations of the mining lobby that works in the quiet of the night. Barely a few kilometres from Pushkar, at Tilora village, adjacent to the eco club, environmental imprints of mining activity were distinctly visible. The hill from the road nearby visibly did not reveal any recent mining activity. But a little uphill walk revealed the extent of the damage.

The entire hill inside was like a hollow gorge, with the one facing the road as a shield to conceal the activity. The scars of recent mining on the hills were still fresh. And despite the dust storms the wheels of the truck from the freshly cut hill, were clearly inscribed on the sand and rubble. At the base of the hill lay heaps of rubble, probably waiting to be carried out, in the dark of the night.

But it is not just Pushkar. The entire state is sitting on a potential outburst of mining activities. And according to officials, “Mining carried out by small lease holders having quarry licences or very small leases (less than 5 ha) in the state is causing immense pressure on the environment. Unregulated “legal” mining and rampant illegal mining in Rajasthan has systematically destroyed forests, devastated the Aravallis, and played havoc with the water resources of the state. Talk to people and they retort, “Who does not know about this? And despite the Supreme Court ban there is nothing that is being done to check illegal mining. The Aravallis are the only barrier to the advance of the Thar but, indiscriminate stone quarrying and illegal construction in forest area are ravaging the range every day. If matters proceed on their present course, Delhi is likely to be a desert in 40 years.”

There are thousands of unorganised mines, which can be as small as one-twentieth of a hectare. They fall out of the purview of government control and there are no accounts of these mines. “Check out the extent of illegal mining in Nagaur that’s so close to Ajmer. And the dunes begin right there. Plus because of rampant mining in this belt, tree cover in the area is almost negligible and the water table has drastically dropped,” said a villager.

According to Rajasthan State Environment Policy 2010, “The mining activity has a close link with environment and forests and is often in conflict. Besides, a significant part of state’s known mineral reserves are in areas which are under forest cover. Inadequate environmental management in small and illegal mining leases by small miners is causing immense pressure on the environment in the state. The lease area being small, the lease holders are unable to use modern mechanized mining methods and also unable to take required environmental protection measures for compliance with various environmental laws. “Besides, according to Centre for Science and Environment’s CSE Sixth State of India’s Environment report, “The state government has failed to regulate illegal mining in forest areas. Udaipur, the most forested district of Rajasthan is also the most mined. The government has issued leases for hundreds of mines in Sariska National Park. Despite repeated Supreme Court orders to close them down, mining continues unabated in Sariska and Jamwa Ramgarh sanctuary. This has had a devastating impact on the forest cover of the state. In the Bijola area, there were 23,800 ha of dense forests in 1971; by 1991, only 12,800 ha remained, and only 2,700 ha was dense. The National Centre for Advocacy Studies reports that about 4,996 ha of this forest land has been converted for mining since 1980.”

The report goes on to recommend a range of policy initiatives that could help India meet this challenge. Some of its main recommendations include recognising people’s right to say “no” (mining should not take place without the consent of the people); independent, impartial preparation of EIA reports; disallowing mining in forests; framing stronger mine closure regulations; and “doing more with less” a key to sustainable development. But despite the report being in the public domain for some time now, things stand as they were, incessantly eroding the Aravalli range and disturbing the eco-system.



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