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Ban later,exposed mines lead to groundwater depletion in Aravallis

A Supreme Court ban on all mining and construction activities in the Aravalli areas of the Gurgaon and Faridabad districts has failed to curb an alarming rate of groundwater depletion in these areas...

A Supreme Court ban on all mining and construction activities in the Aravalli areas of the Gurgaon and Faridabad districts has failed to curb an alarming rate of groundwater depletion in these areas,resulting from the mining pits that have been left exposed. A recent hydro-geological report submitted by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) highlights how mining pits are now filled with water,leading to evaporation of groundwater.

In its 2004 judgment on the Bhurelal Committee report,the Supreme Court had ordered the closure of all mining activities in the Aravallis,except a few that were added later. The court had,in an earlier judgment,also ordered that excavated pits in the area be filled up with immediate effect and an afforestation drive be carried out in the area.

A reality check,however,shows that the “abandoned mines have been left open,and the entire region pockmarked is with deep pits and overburdens (earth dug out from the pits)”.

According to the recent report by the SC-constituted Central Empowered Committee (CEC),there are around 134 mines that fall under the notified Sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA),1900. The report further states: “Many of the mined pits now have water in them… Treat the entire Aravalli Hills of Faridabad and Gurgaon districts as prohibited zones for mining except specific locations exempted by the SC.”

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Satellite images show that Bhatkal and Surajkund lakes have gone completely dry due to the ongoing construction activities in their neighbourhood.

“Mining activities in areas like Pali,Mohabbatabad,Anangpur and Manger villages were mainly carried out below the water table by pumping out groundwater. This has affected the groundwater reserves,resulting in depletion of groundwater resources… the natural drainage pattern has also altered due to mining and dumping of waste material,” states the CGWB report.

The present rainfall pattern of the Faridabad district shows that the region has the possibility of being hit by a moderate drought every nine years and a severe drought every 14 years.

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The report further mentions that groundwater level in the area has witnessed a steep decline of 17 metres between 1996 and 2003. However,with mining activities curbed,the net rise in groundwater levels during 2003 to 2007 was two metres.

“It has been observed that over large areas where mining activities below the level of the water table have been stopped,the mining pits have converted into large lakes. The groundwater exposure is resulting in huge evaporation losses…” reads the report. “It is estimated that from a total area of 9,02,418 sq metre of exposed water table,an accumulative loss of 8,86,891 cubic metres of fresh water is occurring each year,” it adds.

A letter from the Director,Mines and Geology,Haryana,also brings to light the fact that out of a total of 46 mining leases or prospecting licences,23 areas are covered under Sections 4 and 5 of the PLPA and the Aravalli plantation. Of the remaining 23 mining areas,16 are partially under the above-mentioned sections and hence also cannot have mining activities in the area. “The remaining seven mining areas (1265.6 hectares) are free from all restrictions and can be made available for mining,” reads the letter.

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The letter,however,also mentions that of the seven areas,one area — which is over 123.8 hectares— has not been granted a mining lease and two areas (one in Alampur and one in Mohabbatabad) have been granted prospecting licences that have not been converted to mining leases,thereby leaving only four mines (1,020 hectares) available for mining purposes.

First published on: 28-01-2009 at 12:11:50 am
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