Wildlife board calls for study on impact of sand mining in Uttarakhand
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has raised concerns about extensive sand and boulder mining projects in Uttarakhand and their impact on river ecology and wildlife. As per the minutes of an NBWL meeting on June 11, it has recommended a study of the cumulative impact of the mining for consideration of future projects.
There are over 100 sand mining leases operational in the state, according to its geology and mining department. NBWL had received three proposals for sand mining along the Asan Wetland Conservation Reserve and five along the Rajaji National Park’s boundary near Haridwar.
NBWL considered the five proposals for the collection of sand, sand gravel (bajri) and boulders in the private lands located 1.5 to 9 km from the boundary thrice. But it decided against clearing the projects until they complied with Union environment ministry’s Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s conditions.
“Few proposals may not have serious impact on ecology, ground water recharge and wildlife disturbance, but when several dozen miners work in the river beds around the Park, and hundreds may be thousands of trucks move every day for transport of the material, the anthropogenic pressure and ecological degradation would be serious,” said HS Singh, member NBWL, according to the minutes.
The environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee has deferred the renewal of forest clearance for mining of minor minerals from 64 ha of forest land along river Song in Mussoorie forest division that Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation had applied for. “The state government shall conduct a study to ascertain the impact of mining in upstream and downstream. The study shall come out with clear recommendations as how such mining is useful in maintaining the natural flow of the river and health of adjoining forests. It should cover the impact of mining in the area for last ten years. The study may correlate satellite imagery of last ten years,” FAC observed. It added the government should also quantify how much sand and boulder can be mined annually.
According to the corporation, there are 10 leases that are being worked now, four on the Gaula river, the rest on Kosi, Dapka and Nandhaur, Sharda, Malan and Kotawali rivers. “Our permit for mining on Rawasan river expired in March. We have requested NBWL to grant us permission to mine on Rawasan for a few more months until we can renew the clearance. We also have forest clearances to mine sand on the Ganga and its other tributaries but we some court cases are pending against them,” said Monish Mullick, the Corporation’s managing director.
Dinesh Kumar, deputy director, geology and mining, Uttarakhand, said they do not do any mechanised mining. “There are very few in wildlife dominated areas. We will not proceed on those without NBWL nod.”