Aravallis razed

Repeated court orders fail to save part of the primitive mountain range in Alwar from mining

 
By Anupam Chakravartty
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

Aravallis razed

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Call it sheer callousness of the Rajasthan government or connivance between administrative officials and mining mafia, two hills of the primitive Aravalli mountain range have been literally razed to the ground and beyond within a span of four years. All that remain are large open pits, as deep as several metres, interspersed with hundreds of dumpers, tractors and columns of granite, awaiting a final blow.

Residents of Harla ki Dhani village in Alwar district say mining is going on illegally in the Kahrani hills that are part of the Tijara reserve forest. Mining mafia are running a parallel administration in Tijara block, they allege.

It became evident on January 23. Following the Supreme Court direction on January 16, the district administration had formed a team of 50 policemen, forest officials and mining engineers to close illegal mines in the Aravallis. When the team went to the Kahrani hill, it was attacked by about 200 goons, armed with stones, thick sticks and machetes. More than six policemen were seriously injured. Not a single raid has been reported in the district since. Mining was going on when Down To Earth visited the village on February 4.

Harla ki Dhani residents say heavy influence of the mafia that manages illegal mining has silenced everyone. Some administrative officials and policemen are working hand in glove with them, they allege. In 2010, the residents wrote a letter to the district collector saying that “policemen charge mine contractors Rs 3,500 for allowing a dumper, Rs 5,000-Rs 10,000 for an earthmover and Rs 4,500 for compressor tractors as a monthly fee”. Talking to Down To Earth the residents promptly name members of the mafia group. Karan Singh, station head of the local police station, says: “It is hard to pin down the mafia.”

The raid on January 23 was not the first attempt to close the mines. In 2010, acting on a petition by Harla ki Dhani residents, the Rajasthan High Court ordered the government to stop illegal mining in the hills, which is Survey No 632 on the official record. “We approached the court after mining became rampant in the hills,” says Shyam Singh, one of the petitioners. Beyond his mustard fields lie the remains of the hills, once known for its greenery.

Mining on the Kahrani for granite, boulders and grit is not new. But earlier it used to be on a small scale and was done manually, Singh recalls. The sudden influx of miners began in 2008. They brought dumpers and earthmovers and used explosives to tear down the hills. “There would be at least 150 blasts a day, forcing us to stay indoors,” he says, adding that flying boulders from the explosion have damaged houses and drip irrigation pipes. “Our crops have been suffering for the past two years. Approaching the police or forest officials is futile.”

Mange Ram, who belongs to the Meo pastoral community in the village, says he had to sell all his 50 goats and abandon his traditional profession after the pastures were lost to mining or have been occupied by vendors who have set up food stalls for mine workers. “It was getting difficult to move the livestock due to increasing traffic of dumpers and trucks,” says Ram. The final blow came after one of his goats died after being hit by a boulder. He now works as a cleaner in the nearby Bhiwadi town. Around 50 pastoral families in Harla ki Dhani have migrated or changed their professions since mining took over the hills. Residents say had the government paid heed to the high court, at least some portion of the Kahrani could have been saved.

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District Mining Officer J P Jakhar, who led the raiding team on January 23, explains: Alwar, where most of the mining in the Aravallis happen, is the victim of its proximity to the National Capital Region (NCR). Following the 2002 Supreme Court order, Delhi, NCR and Haryana enforced a complete ban on mining on the Aravallis by 2007. This is when the focus shifted to Alwar. Illegal mining flourished with support from the local mafia, till then engaged in petty crimes. The Kahrani hills are just one of the victims.

A report prepared by the Lucknow regional office of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 2008 corroborates Jakhar’s observation. At least 626 cases of illegal mining and transportation of minerals were registered in Alwar in the previous two financial years. Reports of the Forest Survey of India show that in Tijara block alone, the area under illegal mining has increased by more than four times in five years; from 12.94 ha in 2005 to 51.2 ha in 2010.

According to the 1992 notification issued by MoEF, mining in the Aravallis of Alwar requires prior approval of the ministry.

Supreme Court team misled

The heavy influence of the mafia and mining contractors in the region was also palpable during the recent visit by the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on mining to Alwar, as part of its mission to take stock of illegal mining in the Aravallis. But the team was misled by local officials, including the district collector and chief of police, travelling with them. “By taking us through other routes the officials ensured we missed the Kahrani,” says a CEC member. “We are horrified that such extensive mining is going on right next to the National Highway-8. We found out later through satellite imageries that we could not see many such areas in Tijara block,” he adds. At several places CEC found the roads leading to the quarries in Udhanwas village in Tijara were blocked with heavy boulders. The team during its visit shut down 27 illegal mines, 50 stone screening plants and seized eight crushers in and around Udhanwas.

In its report submitted to the apex court, CEC says though illegal mining is going on in Mewat, another Aravalli district of Rajasthan, it is rampant in Alwar. Over 60 million tonnes of bajri (small-sized grit) are excavated from across the state every month without environmental clearance, says the CEC report. As per a conservative estimate 60 million tonnes of bajri is sufficient to build 150,000 two-storey houses.

It criticises Rajasthan’s mining policies and blames it for spurring illegal mining in the area. For instance, the report says, the majority of the mining leases in the state are granted in “clusters”. Instead of granting individual leases or mineral concessions, the government grants royalty collection contracts or excess royalty collection contracts for minor minerals like granite.

“This is similar to the zamindari system,” says the CEC member. Royalty contracts are given to contractors, without any environmental or forest clearances. Contractors just pay a monthly fee in case of the stones blasted out illegally from the Aravallis. This allows many legal leaseholders who have permits for other areas to mine inside forest areas, causing extensive damage to its ecology and hydrology. In case of excess royalty contracts, the miners pay a fixed amount to the concerned mining department. Since there is no charge for the excess minerals mined from these areas, the mine owners make huge profits, the CEC member explains. He adds that following the visit of the CEC and the state’s action, the contractors have raised the prices of grit and are making a windfall.

Based on the CEC report, the apex court on January 16 asked the Rajasthan government to explain the legality and propriety of granting such royalty collection contracts. It asked the government to submit a report within two weeks, showing whether it has closed all illegal mines. Till the magazine went to print, the government had not submitted the compliance report.

 

Video
 
Raizing Aravalli
Residents of Harla ki Dhani in Rajasthan discuss effects of illegal mining in the Aravallis
Read full story>>
 

 

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  • Appreciate the courage of

    Appreciate the courage of these men who spoke up on video against the Aravali mining mafia. Unfortunately, there are no big players to catch so how can the small operators be controlled if the very police who has been posted there makes Rs.500/- per truck?
    Who checks the police?
    Rajasthan Mewat is perhaps one of the most backward areas of our country despite being within a 100kms of the national capital. Human life is cheap, no child is educated, each family has 10 to 15 children.Illegal mining has now made them all criminals and despite much cash flow, their quality of life has worsened. The main cause is CORRUPTION which has seeped down into every corner of government machinery and then POLITICAL PRESSURE from the local MLA who is also the Health Minister of Rajasthan.
    How can the Aravali be saved when its very protector is the enemy?

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Yes, it is the clear cut

    Yes, it is the clear cut violation to exploit the minerals against wishes of the people and environment. I have spent several years for the search of minerals. At the same time, seen the efforts of the government and people to make Rajasthan GREEN. On the other side, working against the natural law of "HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT OF THE PEOPLE". It is the fact that Rajasthan is rich in Minerals and certainly they have to mined for the development of the people and environment.

    The basic problem is with the balancing of the development Vs the natural resources. Certainly, mining results for development, but the question is whose development is it?. As a thumb rule, mining is a business and should not be continued for the sake of business which is for the development of the selected people who are mostly outsiders.

    Instead, if the concerned authorities & agencies start doing mining for the development of the local people and health of the surrounding environment, i.e. business to people (B2P),with better participation of the locals starting from the stage of conceptualization to implementation including evaluation & monitoring, will certainly results for the acceptance and participation of the people. Care should also be taken to compensate the negative impact / loss resulted for the people and environment. With B2P model added with need based settlement & rehabilitation support will certainly leads for an effective mining of the natural resources.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • In continuation, it is

    In continuation, it is surprised to know that the Central Empowered Committee (CEC)appointed by Supreme Court that the team was misled by local Officials. It indicates the gaps in preparations for visit and non utilization of available technologies including GPS, Satellite Images and other data processing software. It opens the scope to ask more questions like: why the community is not involved in the team visit?, what is the status of Social Audit? Lapses in security for the Team Members?,Any one can violate the rules?.........

    If this is the situation for the case of violation gone to the Supreme Court, then what will happens meany such cases which never recorded by the authorities???? It is the high time to all the stakeholders to act for the sustainable development for the people and environment.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • This is a very big issue in

    This is a very big issue in Rajasthan. I was in Tal Chapar Wildlife Sanctuary in Churu district in October 2012 and mining was on in full swing with heavy machinery very close to the Sanctuary. Complete hills are being slowly decimated, destroying the habitat of thousands of local as well as migratory birds.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Nice article. Thanks for

    Nice article. Thanks for sharing this useful information about earth.
    Regards..
    Earthmovers in Chennai

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply