Patna HC questions mining in heritage hillocks without environmental clearance
The Patna high court last week asked the Bihar government why it allowed private parties to extract raw material from the ‘Lomas’ and ‘Yagyawallakya’ hillocks in Nawada district, which carry great heritage value, without obtaining the requisite environmental clearances and if depredation of the ecology and biodiversity of Rajauli area in Nawada was considered before allowing the mining activities.
The court said it prima facie found that environmental clearances was not obtained for commercial activity on the hillocks, situated just 3.5 kilometers from Koderma Wildlife Sanctuary, and asked secretaries of the Union ministries of culture and environment, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and principal secretary of the department of mines, Bihar government, to file personal affidavits in this regard within three weeks.
The matter has been listed for next hearing on October 5, till when the cultural heritage and environment of the area will continue to receive protection under interim orders passed on July 20, 2021 by the bench of chief justice Sanjay Karol and justice Sanjay Kumar.
A Rajauli (Nawada) resident Vinoy Kumar Singh had filed the case, seeking protection of the environment and the ecosystem surrounding ‘Lomas’ and ‘Yagyawallakya’ hillocks, named after ancient sages and carrying religious, cultural and historical significance evidenced in the presence of ancient temples, stairs and caves.
Citing the Bihar District Gazetteer, Gaya, published in 1906 by the then Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer LSS O’Malley and other scriptures, identifying the hillocks as abode of sages such as Durvasa, Lomas, Gautam, Shringi and Yagyawallakya, the petition pleads for a survey in the area, granting the hillocks status of heritage and protected sites of great historical and religious value, and restrain on all ongoing stone quarrying and mining activities in the area.
The petitioner has also sought the withdrawal of the no-objection certificate (NOC) granted for mining lease, citing distortion of facts in the enquiry report, such as claim that it was not forest land and there was no water source or river within 500 meters of the concerned site and that the local villagers had no objection to issue of mining licenses.
The counsel for the petitioner, Brisketu Saran Pandey, said that following the July order of the court, work has stopped at the site. “The report submitted from the ground was wrong, as it completely ignored the sensitivity and heritage value of the ancient hillocks. I have also mentioned it before the court. It is an ecologically sensitive place and due precaution should have been taken before allowing any mining activity,” he added.
Harjot Kaur Bamhrah, principal secretary-cum-mines commissioner, could not be contacted for his comment.
The chairman of the recently constituted State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, Bihar, Atul Aditya Pandey, who is also the head, department of Geology, Patna University, said the matter had not come before him so far. “I have just joined. But there is a clearly laid down procedure, which requires vendors to obtain a NOC from around 15 places before it is presented before the authority for review. I will have to see the records,” he added.