R’than govt nod for mining near Sariska tiger reserve

Jaipur: The beauty of the Aravalliflanked Sariska Reserve may soon be a thing of past with Rajasthan government granting 40 new mining leases in the eco-sensitive zone, something that’ll leave the area pock-marked with quarries and pose a threat to an ambitious tiger rehabilitation project.

    The government sanctioned the leases on Tuesday on a plea that Aravalli range, where stone mining had been sanctioned, had contours less than 100 feet, which is not considered as a hill as per state government norms.

    Earlier this year, Supreme Court banned quarrying for stone in the Aravallis of neighbouring Haryana state, holding the mining companies guilty of violating zoning laws and not filling up excavated craters. Later it said some mining may be allowed but only when Haryana government adopts a mining policy based on an SC-appointed committee’s guidelines.

    While Rajasthan authorities have interpreted norms to their convenience to sanction fresh leases, their decision is seen as a setback to efforts to rehabilitate tigers in the Sariska as mining could damage the ecology of the region and jeopardise the survival of big cats. Five tigers have already been relocated to Sariska from Ranthambore and forest officials plan to shift more in the coming months.

    Reports suggest the new leases have gone to a few Haryana-based companies at villages such as Jaisinghpura, Malana, Goverdhanpura, Palpura and Jamwa Ramgarh, in the vicinity of Sariska sanctuary.

    “This shows how powerful and manipulative the mining lobby is. While the department of mines and geology and forests are justifying their decision on the grounds that the hills are less than 100m in height, they should know that there is no such classification by the Supreme Court. This is the department’s own creation and a gross violation of Forest (Conservation) Act 1980,’’ said Y K Singh Chauhan, conservator of forests, ministry of environment and forests.

    However, V S Singh, principal secretary, forests and environment, who heads the special committee on Aravalli Notification in Alwar, claimed new leases will not disturb forest areas and are not near any water body.

    The Supreme Court had on April 8, 2002, restrained mining in Aravallis and forest areas in Rajasthan where permission had been accorded after Dec. 16, 2002, pending further decision.

    While the SC specified that all lease renewals would be considered as fresh applications, the Rajasthan government chose to interpret it to their convenience and went ahead renewing leases without requisite permission from the ministry of environment and forests.


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