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SC: Can donate for battered hills but no mining

Miners on Thursday conveyed their eagerness before the Supreme Court to pitch in with funds to rehabilitate the battered Aravalli ranges but the court made it...

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi | Published: February 19, 2010 1:17 am

Miners on Thursday conveyed their eagerness before the Supreme Court to pitch in with funds to rehabilitate the battered Aravalli ranges but the court made it clear that the ban on mining will not be lifted until there is “rehabilitation” of the ecologically fragile belts.

“All this has been forced on you,” the Special Forest Bench,or the ‘green bench’,of three judges led by Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan told the miners,who expressed willingness to contribute to the Aravalli Rehabilitation Fund.

He was seconded by Justice Aftab Alam on the Bench,who said: “You (leaseholders) are responsible for bringing it down to this situation. If you had followed the rules,we would never have been in this situation. Now you are desperate.”

Later,acceding to the miners’ request,the court gave them liberty to “contribute” to the fund,but only in consultation with the government. “After all,it boils down to money. These funds generated can be used for rehabilitation,” Justice Alam remarked.

Justice S H Kapadia,also on the Bench,made it clear that “there is no lifting of the ban (on mining) until there is rehabilitation”.

On May 8 last year,the court had ordered suspension of all mining activities — both quarrying of building materials known as ‘minor’ mining,and traditional minerals,known as ‘major’ mining — in 448-sq km or 1,500 hectares of Aravalli range areas in Faridabad,Gurgaon and Mewat districts of Haryana.

“If there is total devastation of Aravallis,then the logical corollary is a total ban on mining activity,” the court had said.

In January 2009,the apex court’s central empowered committee had in its report advocated a total revocation of existing mining leases. It had recommended the closure of all mines in Faridabad and Gurgaon districts in the Aravalli range.

But subsequently,on October 8,2009,the apex court had agreed to allow limited mining of building materials — Badarpur sand and stones,commonly used as construction material in the National Capital Region — in 600 hectares of the Aravali ranges in Haryana,provided the state government formulates a “comprehensive” rehabilitation plan in the next six months.

This had included a direction to Haryana to establish the Aravalli Rehabilitation Fund,the setting up of a monitoring committee,and the creation of a transparent procedure for auction of mines. Accordingly,a successful bidder had to deposit 10 per cent of auction money in a joint account with the State Mines Department.

During the hearing on Thursday,the Bench at one point had to stop the state government and the miners from trading accusations. “If we resort to blame game,rehabilitation will suffer. Sit down and talk even at the cost losses on one or the other side,” Justice Kapadia cautioned both sides.

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