Haryana seeks SC approval to restart mining in Gurugram, Faridabad Aravallis
The Haryana government will, on Thursday, seek the Supreme Court’s approval to begin mining in the Aravallis in Gurugram and Faridabad, a controversial move that could threaten one of the oldest mountain ranges in the country and have significant environmental impact, in terms of groundwater recharge and biodiversity.
“In view of pending litigation in the Haryana mining matters case, mining in Aravalli hill areas in the districts of Faridabad, Gurugram and Mewat is lying closed since May 2009…that on the one hand the state and its citizens are being disadvantaged of the benefit of its natural resources and at the same time it has to depend on mineral from adjoining states at higher cost to its economy both public and private. The execution of infrastructural projects in the state is not only getting delayed but the cost escalation of the same due to higher cost of basic material has been a major concern affecting all new projects,” said Haryana’s appeal in the apex court, which will be heard on March 4. The appeal, reviewed by Hindustan Times, claims that there is large-scale unemployment in Haryana due to the Covid-19 pandemic which can be addressed by opening up mining.
In 2009, the Supreme Court imposed a blanket ban on all mining of major and minor minerals in the eco-sensitive Aravalli hills in Faridabad, Gurugram and Mewat.
The order suspended all mining activities in the region till statutory provisions for restoration and reclamation were complied with, particularly in cases where pits or quarries had been abandoned.
“We are ready to comply with all of SC’s orders on mining issued earlier. The SC directed us to prepare a rehabilitation plan for areas which were affected by mining. MoEFCC (the union environment ministry) prepared it in 2013 but it is yet to be finalised. Our appeal in SC will be to finalise the rehabilitation plan and allow us to start mining operations in Gurugram and Faridabad ,” said Anil Grover, senior advocate general of Haryana.
He added that in 2009, the Supreme Court, in principle, agreed to allow mining on 600 hectares of land across Faridabad subject to finalising of a rehabilitation plan
Meanwhile, Social Action for Forest and Environment, an environmental activist group has filed an application for intervention in the matter. The group, which will be represented by advocate Sanjay Upadhyay, suggests that the origin of this 600 hectares to be opened up for mining is the report of a private consultant engaged by Haryana. “It is believed that the mining is proposed to be carried out in new areas which remained untouched from mining earlier. That out of the 600 ha which has been identified by the above consultant, about 238 ha land is protected under Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, Aravalli Notification and Aravalli Plantation areas,” the group said in a statement.
The Union environment ministry said it is unaware of any plan.
“No reference has been made to us on mining in the Aravallis. We can only comment when the reference is made to us. If it goes to court it will be referred to us also,” said a senior environment ministry official who asked not to be named.
Environmentalists warned of the dangers of allowing mining to restart in the region.
“The total extent of mining leases granted in the past and the extent of illegal mining have not been assessed so far. Illegal mining’s impact has been much greater than the legal mining allowed. It has exceeded any rational level of carrying capacity in the Aravallis. The impact of the illegal mining on forests, wildlife habitat and corridor movement and groundwater recharge were devastating. All three have been recovering slowly with the healing powers of nature. Allowing mining to restart in the Faridabad-Gurugram belt will again devastate the ecology of the region, destroy forest cover, and wildlife habitat,” said Chetan Agarwal, a Gurugram-based environmental analyst.
“Haryana has the lowest forest cover in the country, around 3.62%. Most of this is concentrated in the Aravalli hills in south Haryana (and some in the Shivaliks in the north). Allowing mining in the little remaining forest cover will lead to disproportionately high environmental impacts,” added Col SS Oberoi (retd), an environmentalist.