Mining in Aravallis

News: Haryana State government’s moves to seek Supreme Court’s permission to resume mining in the Aravalli hill region.

Details:

  • The State government has moved the Supreme Court to seek permission to begin mining in the Aravalis in Gurugram, Faridabad and Nuh.
  • Mining has been banned in Gurugram and adjoining districts for more than a decade now as per the Supreme Court orders.

Arguments against:

  • The environmentalists have strongly opposed legalising of mining in the Aravalis in the National Capital Region based on the following arguments.

Impact on air quality:

  • The environmentalists argue that the move to legalize mining could cause colossal damage to the environment, especially when the region is already grappling with poor air quality.
  • Faridabad has the worst air quality in Haryana and figures among the most polluted cities in the world. Gurugram, too, had topped the list of most polluted cities in the world in 2018. It is also argued that Gurugram and Faridabad have a high population density, but low per capita forest cover. The ban on mining in Gurugram and Faridabad, had resulted in a significant improvement in the forest cover.
  • The destruction of the Aravalis would worsen the NCR air pollution situation. The poor air quality could have a detrimental impact on the city residents’ health.

Impact on groundwater resources:

  • The Aravalis with their natural cracks and fissures have the potential to accommodate two million litres of water per hectare in the ground every year.
  • The resumption of mining in the region could prove detrimental to the already fast depleting groundwater level in the region posing a water security threat to the residents of the region.

Impact on wildlife:

  • The wildlife surveys show that Gurugram and Faridabad hills act as a significant wildlife habitat and corridor, especially for the leopards. There is also movement from and into the Asola wildlife sanctuary. The resumption of mining here will be disastrous for the wildlife.
  • The Aravalli mountain range is a biodiversity hotspot with 400-odd species of trees, shrubs and herbs; 200-odd native and migratory bird species;100-odd butterfly species; 20-odd reptile species and 20-odd mammal species, including leopards.

Desertification:

  • The Aravalli mountain range is the only natural barrier against desertification.
  • The resumption of mining activity in the region would lead to further deforestation in the region further exacerbating the threat of desertification in the region.

Threat posed by illegal mining:

  • A very high number of illegal mining have been reported from the state.
  • Mining, when earlier allowed, was carried out in a haphazard manner without adhering to the norms causing huge damage to the environment and the wildlife.

Arguments in favour:

  • As per the Economic Survey of Haryana 2020-21, the collection from mining for 2020-21 till January is ₹770.00 crore, the highest since 2005-06. This amounts to a substantial stream of revenue for the state government. The mining in this region would not just help meet the demand for construction material but also generate employment.

Solution:

  • Mining should not be done in NCR districts adjacent to Delhi which are important wildlife habitats and corridors, have poor air quality and high population. Mining should also not be allowed in thick forest areas. Mining should be confined to isolated hillocks in distant areas with minimal impact on wildlife corridors and air quality.
  • This would result in minimum damage to environment and help ensure sustainable development.
  • A survey needs to be conducted to identify the possible areas for mining.
  • The government could consider notifying 50,000 acre of Aravalis as deemed forest and retaining all Aravalis in south Haryana as natural conservation zone.
  • The government should come up with a three-year road map to take the legal native forest cover in the State to 20% as per the Haryana Forest Department policy target. This move could help offset some of the negative impacts of deforestation carried out for mining operations.