Environmentalists protest against mining in Aravallis at Haryana Bhawan, ahead of SC hearing
Ahead of a Supreme Court (SC) hearing on the Haryana government’s plea to allow mining in the Aravallis of Gurugram and Faridabad, environmentalists in the city have raised concerns over significant adverse impact on groundwater recharge capacity and wildlife if mining activity resumes.
Citizens and students protested outside Haryana Bhawan in Delhi on Wednesday against the state government’s plan. The protesters also submitted a letter addressed to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar that stated, “Haryana has the lowest forest cover in India, just 3.62%. Most of this is concentrated in the Aravalli hills in south Haryana and some in the Shivaliks in the north. Aravallis in Haryana have been under huge attack from illegal felling of trees and encroachment… Legalising mining in the Aravallis will lead to severe environmental impacts threatening the survival of millions of people living in Gurugram, Faridabad, Delhi-NCR as well as the wildlife that call these forests home.”
“The Supreme Court had banned mining in the Aravallis these last few years. Until now, mining was going on illegally in Haryana. Legalising mining threatens the mere existence of these historic and environmentally vital hill ranges. Aravallis with their natural cracks and fissures have the potential to put 2 million litres of water per hectare in the ground every year,” a statement by the protesters said.
Anil Grover, the additional advocate general of Haryana, said that large-scale unemployment in Haryana caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and high cost of procurement of raw material for construction have necessitated the state government to request the Supreme Court to allow mining in Faridabad. “In 2011, the Supreme Court discussed the aspect of a rehabilitation plan with the Attorney General of India who had then submitted that the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) can convene an urgent meeting of all parties and plans would be considered. Thereafter, in 2013, the rehabilitation and reclaiming plan was submitted through the then assistant inspector general of forests, MoEF. We have requested the apex court to approve this plan and allow us to conduct mining following environmental and all other necessary clearances,” said Grover.
In 2009, the SC imposed a blanket ban on all mining of major and minor minerals in the eco-sensitive Aravalli hills in Faridabad, Gurugram and Mewat. The court then said, “The actual mining operation in the 600 ha of land in Faridabad shall commence on submission of the rehabilitation and reclamation plan by the state and its approval by this Court. It shall be done at the earliest and preferably within a period of six months.”
In October last year, the state government appealed to the SC to allow the resumption of mining in the Aravallis of Gurugram and Faridabad. A hearing in the matter is scheduled for Thursday.
Neelam Ahluwalia of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement, who led the protest on Thursday, said, “We citizens demand that mining in the Aravallis should not be legalised. The state government should withdraw the regressive Punjab Land Preservation Act Amendment Bill of 2019, remove illegal encroachments from the Aravallis and grant forest status to 50,000 acres of Aravallis which have no legal protection...”
Speaking on the issues, RK Chauhan, joint director of the department of environment, said, “We have not received any update in this matter so far… Our role starts when mining is approved for a particular area and environmental clearances are to be given.”
Officials of the Mines and Geology department of Haryana declined to comment as the matter is sub judice.
Chetan Aggarwal, a city-based environmentalist, said, “In the past 11 years, since mining was banned in Haryana, forests have regrown and wildlife numbers have also increased in the area. A report by the Wildlife Institute of India from 2017 also shows improvement in the presence of wildlife. If mining is started again, the whole ecology will be impacted. Additionally, the forests of Faridabad have already faced mining more than its carrying capacity in the past.”