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Illegal mining: Reafforestation in the Aravallis may be very difficult and costly, says committee

In its report submitted to the National Green Tribunal, the committee said that for areas that are “scarred by mining activities, it is normally useful to close the area from anthropogenic activities and allow it to regenerate on its own”.

She said that during the raid, some machinery and signs of fresh mining were found, and that that the officials have been instructed to prepare and submit a report immediately in this regard. (File/Representational)

Reafforestation in the areas ravaged by extensive mining in the Aravallis in Haryana is likely to be “very difficult and highly cost-intensive” on account of slopes, poor soil depth and nutrient deficiency since mining removes the fertile topsoil, according to a report submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Monday.

The study was conducted by a joint committee formed on the orders of the tribunal to look into instances of illegal mining in the once ecologically rich Aravalli mountain range.

The report recommends the protection of the areas eaten away by mining to help with their natural regeneration. For areas that are “scarred by mining activities, it is normally useful to close the area from anthropogenic activities and allow it to regenerate on its own over a period of time”, the report stated.

An NGT order issued in October directed the committee to consider the aspects of closure of the mining pits and reclamation or rehabilitation of the land involved. The committee chaired by the chief conservator of forests (South), Gurgaon, comprises officials of the police department, Haryana State Pollution Control Board, and Haryana Mining and Geology Department.

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“In locations where mining has taken place by vertically shaving the hill slopes, it is not feasible to restore the landscape to its original form,” the panel noted in its report.

The panel of experts pointed out that in the mined areas where the slopes remain gentle to moderate, the areas can be reclaimed by terracing and reforestation. “However, the concern will remain on aspects that the Aravallis have poor soil depth and the mined areas will be nutrient deficient in form of gravels/rocks on the surface. Therefore, reafforestation of such areas through plantation would be very difficult and highly cost intensive because mining activity removes the fertile/topsoil and after mining such areas are devoid of nutrients.”

The report recommends that these mined areas be reclaimed or reforested by means of natural regeneration where “intervention is limited to the protection of the area”. This protection can be achieved by the closure of the area through fencing or continuous trenching, it stated. “The other intervention that could be made is the seeding of native species through seed balls in such closed lands,” it added.

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In a report submitted to the NGT in October, the committee had said that during inspections it was found that there were instances of mining activity in 16 locations in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Nuh. The NGT had then noted in its order that “…we find that the same (illegal mining) is spread over a wider area and on diverse locations” and it needs to be further explored by the joint committee. The inspections were carried out following an application filed before the NGT by the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement.

According to the report, the mining department has informed the committee that in addition to the 16 sites, there are 38 additional sites – 37 in Nuh and one in Gurgaon – where illegal mining activity has been reported.

Earlier this month, the committee visited 22 out of the 38 sites, and found that there were signs of mining at three sites on the day of the visit.

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Some of these sites had mining leases till 2002 when mining was banned by a Supreme Court order. In parts of Tauru, near Nuh, for instance, a mining lease for the extraction of stone was valid till 2002, but there were instances of mining later as well with the last reported incident being from 2019, the report noted.

The committee has recommended setting up an integrated task force “with mandate to enforce the law” to deal with illegal mining in the Aravallis.

First published on: 29-11-2022 at 12:32 IST
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