Supreme Court asks Rajasthan government to stop illegal mining in Aravalli hills in 48 hours
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Rajasthan government to shut down illegal mining units in the state within 48 hours after the court was told that 38 of the 128 hillocks in the state’s Aravali range region had disappeared due to mining, and this was adding to a rise in pollution levels in parts of north India including the national capital.
The bench of justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta was hearing a case related to illegal mining.
“What is happening in Rajasthan? Humans seem to be flying away with hills just like Hanuman,” justice Lokur asked the Rajasthan state counsel who did not refute the disappearance of hills, which the Forest Survey of India (FSI) had pointed out in a report submitted to the top court in June this year.
The judges said that illegal mining was one of the main causes for alarming levels of pollution in Delhi.
“Hills act as barriers. If you start removing them the pollution from there will enter Delhi. For the sake of a minority in your state you are endangering the lives of lakhs of people living in Delhi,” justice Lokur said.
When the bench was told that the Rajasthan government was earning Rs 5,000 crore as royalty through mining operations in the state, justice Lokur responded: “For royalty, you are putting Delhi residents at a risk. Since you admit that there is illegal mining in your state, give your royalty to the people of Delhi. Hospitals are overcrowded here.”
Gurgaon-based Chetan Agarwal, an ecological analyst, said, “Aravalis act as barrier to Thar desert, and the dust storms which come from there are blocked by the Aravalis...
“Deposits of sand dunes on the western flank of Aravalis act as barrier to desert storms. Aravalis, being old mountains, have cracks and fissures that facilitate infiltration of rainwater into the ground. Aravalis are like mini-groundwater towers for surrounding region, they are also extremely biodiversity rich,” he said
Though the state admitted there was illegal mining in over 115 hectares of land in Rajasthan, it contested the FSI survey’s findings. It also said FSI carried out the inspection without consulting local authorities.
But the court said it was compelled to issue directions because it was not satisfied with Rajasthan government’s affidavit in response to the FSI report. It ordered the chief secretary of Rajasthan to file a compliance affidavit by Friday and fixed October 29 as the next date of hearing.
“It’s not proper to make wild allegations against a premier government body [FSI],” the court recorded in its order.
“Entire issue of mining in Aravalli is being taken very lightly. The report [before the court] says out of 128 samples taken by the FSI as many as 38 hillocks have vanished. This has not been denied in its status report by the state, which indicates lack of concern on the state’s part,” the apex court order added.