the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (moef) has attracted serious criticism after granting clearances for two mining projects in Faridabad in July 2006. The Supreme Court of India has directed the ministry to explain its criteria for granting the clearances. A ministry official, however, says the court's order has been wrongly interpreted.
"The court has not sought explanation but has asked us to submit the comprehensive environmental impact assessment (eia) report of the two companies. The two mines did not flout any rules so we gave them clearance. We have already submitted the affidavit in the court," the official said.
The issue was brought up by amicus curiae Ranjit Kumar in the umbrella m c Mehta vs the Union of India case, which has been going on since 1985. The supreme court had taken up an application on mining in Faridabad in May 2002 and ordered a complete ban on mining within 5 km of the Delhi-Haryana border. In March 2004, the court issued a set of instructions regulating the granting of permission for mining in the area.
It had also called for the formation of a monitoring committee to look into the issue and directed it to file a report with suggestions for recommencement of mining. The report, with the court at present, has "strongly recommended moving mining out of the Aravalli Hill systems, restoring land and creating refuge for birds and animals", among other recommendations.
Around the same time, between 2002 and 2004, some leaseholders in Faridabad had already applied to the Central Empowered Committee (cec) for environmental impact assessment under the eia notification of January 27, 1994. The apex court directed cec to forward all the applications to moef so that the ministry could "examine the adverse impact on human health and ecology". It asked the ministry to consider the applications within 10 weeks.
Thirty-one leaseholders submitted their environment management plans then. "moef returned all the plans on the ground that some area of the mines was falling in inviolate zones and they were asked to prepare new plans. A few got back with fresh plans," said Ramesh Arya of Bandhua Mukti Morcha, which has been working for miners' rights in the area.
Of those who got back are the two projects that the ministry has given clearances. The Sethi Group own both the projects and they owned most of the existing mines in Haryana before mining was completely banned in 2002.
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