Recently Supreme Court has warned Haryana Government from allowing anything which may harm Aravalli. Court warned government due to a Bill passed by the Haryana Assembly on February 27, which looks for opening up the Aravallis to non-forest activity and seeking to legitimise past constructions.
A timeline of Supreme Court Orders regarding mining in Aravalli
In 1992, the Supreme Court ordered that in future the approval from Central government would be needed for all mining and industrial activity in the region.
The Supreme Court in 1996 had directed mining leases could not be renewed within two to five-kilometre radius of Badkhal without permission from the central and state pollution control boards.
In 2002, the Supreme Court banned mining activities in Haryana following large scale devastation in Faridabad and neighbouring areas
To avoid Supreme Court judgement, Rajasthan State Mining and Geology Department redefined a hill. As per their definition, any raised area less than 100 metre cannot be categorised as hill.
In 2009, the Supreme Court banned mining throughout the Aravallis again.
In 2018, Supreme Court asks for complete demolition of the Kant enclave, residential complex of about 424.84 acres in the forest range of Aravalli, and directs the company to fully reimburse those who invested in the property.
Aravallis are the oldest mountain range in India and one of the oldest mountain systems of world.
Approximately 800 km long, the mountain range is spread towards northeast across the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. These are fold mountains of which rocks are formed primarily of folded crust, when two convergent plates move towards each other by the process called orogenic movement.
Major Significance of Aravalli
- In earlier decades, Aravalli hills region had a thick forest cover which used to act as a green barrier and acted as an effective shield against desertification of capital.
- It has rich reserves of rose-coloured quartz, zinc, copper, lead, rock phosphate, gypsum, marble, soapstone and silica sand, popularly known in the construction industry as Badarpur sand.
- The Aravalli are rich in biodiversity and functions as a ground water recharge zone for the regions around that absorb rainwater and revive the ground water level.
- Haryana has only 3.59 percent of forest cover which is the lowest in the country and Aravalli is the only area that has some forest areas.
Effects of Aravalli degradation
- 31 hill ranges of the Aravallis in Rajasthan had vanished due to illegal quarrying.
- There is documented evidence of leopards, striped hyenas, golden jackals, nilgais, palm civets, wild pigs, rhesus macaque, pea fowls and Indian crested porcupines thriving there. Many of these animals have been vanished from there.
- Rivers like Banas, Luni, Sahibi and Sakhi, originated in the Aravalli. The rivers are now dead.
- Many waterbodies such as famous Badkhal lake has been dried up and new water bodies due to depression left by illegal miners are popping up.
- Another effect of mining is that due to crushing and mining of stones the air pollution is very high around these areas. The main air pollutants in the mining areas is particulate matter especially Respirable Particulate Matter (RPM).
- The shrinking habitat in the Aravalli forced wild animals like leopards, hyenas and nilgais to venture into areas outside the forest in search of food and water, leading to human-animal conflict.
- The hydrological system in Gurgaon and adjacent areas is under threat, with altered natural draining patterns.
Why Mining is so prevalent?
Neglect by state governments
CAG report on mining in Rajasthan highlighted the major loophole in administration and will to stop illegal mining. Following are some findings:
- 87 lakh metric tonnes of minerals were illegally excavated in a period of five years in Rajasthan districts between 2011 to 2017.
- Mines were operated without renewing the Consent to Operate.
- Mineral production was enhanced without obtaining the Environmental Clearance and there was excess excavation of minerals by the lease holders.
- There were inadequacies in preventive measures for illegal mining as well as in follow up of the illegal mining cases detected.
- Supreme Court’s order of ban on Aravalli were violated and mining leases falling in Aravalli mountain range were granted, renewed and extended.
- Ministry of Environment and Forest also granted Environmental Clearance for mining lease despite the area falling under the Aravalli hill range.
Demand for building material
Due to demand of residential areas in Delhi-NCR demand for building material is on all time high.
The Aravallis are rich in minerals and mining in the hill range for red badarpur sand, silica, quartz and other stones has been on for decades. Providing construction material for the above objective.
People’s participation: There is no way to stop illegal mining if government machinery is not willing to stop it. But as government extract power from people, if citizens living around Aravalli show a will to protect it and put pressure on government, it can be done.
For example, Mangar Bani, a sacred forest in Faridabad has been protected by the local habitants and In 2016, due to public pressure Haryana government notified it as a ‘no construction zone’.
Ten years ago, a patch of greenery on Delhi-Gurgaon border called Aravalli biodiversity park was just barren land. Around 2009, the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon declared it a biodiversity park and partnered with civil society, corporates and residents to plant trees and restore the forest. Today, it has nearly 200 species of plants, 183 species of birds, numerous species of reptiles and insects.
more environmentally sustainable and scientific mining: there is no need to ban mining completely as these hills are rich in many useful minerals. There is need to allow more environmentally sustainable and scientific mining as construction material has to be sourced from somewhere. If not from the Aravallis, it will come from someplace else.