The government departments that had given a green signal to a sand mining quarry in the ecologically-fragile Powat village near Sirhind canal in Ludhiana seem to have realised their folly. Officials of these departments have now raised a red flag against all mining operations in the area.
The quarry was auctioned officially in November last year. But tables turned after HT highlighted how the government had given its consent to plunder of 33 acres for sand by a private contractor in the area, besides a related seepage drain.
The report (Officials pave way for mining in fragile area, HC kept in dark: February 29, 2016) had detailed how officials of the departments of agriculture, irrigation, drainage, soil conservation and public works department (PWD) flouted all norms by approving the quarry.
Taking cognisance of the HT report, Samrala sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Anupreeta Johl convened a meeting, during which officials from these departments took a U-turn and instead argued that mining in the area would be a disaster.
“Mining in this area could lead to breach of the main Sirhind canal, causing heavy loss to life and property due to uproot of the embankment and trees on forestry area,” a senior official of the forest department stated in his assessment report, which he submitted to the SDM on February 2, 2016.
Similarly, the soil conservation wing has now realised the possibility of heavy soil erosion due to flash floods if mining took place at the site. The drainage wing on its part fears floods and water logging “due to the seepage of the Sirhind canal in case of mining activities there”.
While Samrala SDM confirmed that the quarry will not come up in the area now, Ludhiana district general manager (industries) Mahesh Kumar Khanna said he had forwarded the entire report to the state geologist office of the mining wing for final decision.
The matter has now reached principal secretary, industries, Anirudh Tiwari — and only he will decide the fate of the auctioned quarry.
Contempt in the making
The standings of these departments and revenue officials appeared in contradiction to their earlier assessments in favour of the quarry that they had made in the ‘site appraisal committee’ report in June 2013. The then appraisal committee report had been given the final nod by the then Samrala SDM Ghanshyam Thori.
The mining wing of the industries department had gone ahead with the quarry in November last year, despite assuring the Punjab and Haryana high court against quarrying in Powat. While the case went in favour of the villager-petitioners on November 17, 2015, the authorities auctioned the land on November 30, 2015. The HT had also reported the development.