The Uttarakhand high court on Tuesday banned mining across the state for four months while directing the Trivendra Singh Rawat government to form a “high level committee” to recommend guidelines to stop illegal mining and reclaim mined areas.
The order would stop mining in interstate rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna, Gaula, Kosi, Dabka and Kali and also nearly 100 seasonal rivers and rivulets on foothills of the state apart from forest areas leading to an estimated loss of Rs150-200 crore.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the court also asked the committee to probe on how illegal mining was continuing in the state, its impact on local ecology and come up with guidelines to stop it. It also wanted the committee to recommend a plan to reclaim the mined areas which normally turn into a waste-land.
The court has given the state government four weeks to submit the report and banned ongoing mining operations till then. It said there would be “complete ban on mining activities including in forest areas, rivers, rivulets and streams in the State of Uttarakhand” till the submission of the report by High Powered Committee.
The court said the committee the secretary of the environment and forest department or his nominee (not below the rank of additional secretary) would be the chairman of the committee.
Other members of the committee will be - director general, Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, director Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun and director general, Geological Survey of India, Dehradun.
Directing the committee to prepare a comprehensive action plan for mining in the state, the HC said the ‘committee’ will “prepare the blueprint for next 50 years taking into consideration the environment limits vis-à-vis the mining operation” in the state.
In the state, where illegal mining is twice the permitted limit, the government officials estimated revenue loss of Rs150-200 crore because of the ban.
“The next four months are peak mining period before onset of monsoon. Besides, losing revenue, developmental and construction works will be badly impaired and cost will go up in the state” said a Joint director level official in the department under condition of anonymity.
As per state mining department officials, the HC order will render more than one lakh workers jobless and impact the lives of more than three lakh people in the state directly or indirectly connected with mining work.
The officials also said implementing the ban would be tough as the state has porous border with Uttar Pradesh, where most of the illegally mined sand and stone is sold.
The court’s order comes a few days after a forest guard was allegedly killed by illegal miners near Corbett National Park when he had tried to stop them and a tiger was crushed by an earthmovers used by miners in the region.
After these incidents, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on Monday declared “zero-tolerance” towards illegal mining in the state assembly.