'We should identify mineral-rich sites and allow monitored mining'

Manohar Singh Rathore, Director, Centre for Environment and Development Studies, Jaipur, talks about mining in Aravallis 

By Manohar Singh Rathore
Last Updated: Monday 15 April 2019
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Manohar Singh Rathore, Director, Centre for Environment and Development Studies, Jaipur

When we talk about the Aravallis, the major issue is how do we define the mountains. Today, different interest groups — from miners, government, activists to geologists — have their own definitions. No state has come out with a suitable definition because different people want it to mean different things. So, defining Aravallis is important if we want to assess the environmental impact of all the ongoing activities.

It's not only those hills that are visible can be called mountains. They are also underground and it's the same range which starts from Delhi and goes up to Mount Abu. The surface where some of the mining and quarrying activities happen is also a part of the mountains. 

The basic problem is that there are multiple ownership rights of forests — of revenue department, panchayat ownership, central government, and because of land-use classification, multiple ownership rights on forestland has posed a problem and that has led to a number of litigations. The ownership rights for most of the forests are with the Union government and any activity in forest areas requires the permission of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), which is very difficult.

So, people encroach and go for illegal mining. Even when permission is given, there is no scientific mining in Rajasthan. This has disturbed the hydrological cycles in the state that already has a serious water-shortage problem. 

The question is whether we should demarcate areas where most viable economically feasible minerals are available rather than going for rampant mining/quarrying everywhere. We should identify economic zones and sites where minerals are available in good concentration.

For example, copper is abundantly available in Khetri town so there should not be any need to go to any other part of Aravallis to mine it. Traces of many minerals have been found in different places, but we should allow quarrying only where concentrated minerals are available.

The Union and the state governments concerned should form a committee and talk to the mine owners and other interested parties to work out a plan wherein mining zones are identified clearly and no activity should be permissible in other areas.

This was first published in Down To Earth's print edition (dated 1-15 April, 2019)

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