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India

Dying Aravallis: 28 of 130 Hillocks Flattened For Illegal Mining, Farmhouses

Strangely enough, the 'NCR Regional Plan 2041', leaves out the word ‘Aravalli’ deliberately which may result in certain illegal activities, such as illegal mining, despite the ban.

DSP crushed to death by mining mafia
Police personnel at the crime scene after DSP Surender Singh Bishnoi was allegedly mowed down to death by the mining mafia at Pachgaon in Nuh district, Haryana, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (PTI Photo)

Chandigarh: The Supreme Court in 2002 banned illegal mining in the Aravalli Hills which also pass through parts of Haryana, including Mewat, Nuh, Rewari and Faridabad district. Though, the ban order included one exception — permission from the Union Ministry of Environment.

Another SC bench reinforced the prohibition order in 2009, but this was a blanket ban without exceptions. In 2018, a bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, shocked at the extent of illegal mining, exclaimed, “What is happening in Rajasthan? Humans seem to be flying away with hills just like Hanuman.”

And on Monday, when a DSP of Haryana Police, Surender Singh Bishnoi, was mowed down by a trucker ferrying illegally quarried stones in Nuh, it came to light that 28 of the 130 hillocks of Aravalli on the Haryana-Rajasthan border have been razed to the ground. The complete topography has changed despite the SC ban on illegal mining. This is according to the Forest Survey of India (FSI) report, which said that hillocks in the Aravalli range had disappeared due to mining and 15-20 per cent of hills/knolls have vanished.

Notably, a citizens’ group called Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement had approached the National Green Tribunal earlier this year and alleged that illegal mining was being carried out in at least 16 locations in the region. In many places, a huge portion of the hillocks had been excavated and taken away as sand. In other instances, the hills were completely razed to the ground. To check this, DSP Bishnoi had gone to inspect the site and was killed.

Farmhouses Illegally Built, Sold

A Nuh-based advocate, Ramzan Chaudhary, who has been following all the developments about the Aravalli hills and the Supreme Court ban on illegal mining, said now farmhouses are being built in the region and sold. He said, “One of the relatives of a minister has built farmhouses and sold them, which are totally illegal.”

Further, illegal mining has continued in the region despite the SC ban. “Yes, the ban did put some kind of lid on brazen illegality, but undercover mining was always taking place in the Aravallis,” Chaudhary said.

Experts Seek Centre’s Intervention

Now, many experts have written to the Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav asking for stricter measures to conserve the Aravalli Hills.

In their complaint, they have stated that in the proposed draft ‘NCR Regional Plan 2041’, several regulations for the preservation of rivers, water bodies, and flora and fauna at the Aravalli Hills have been deleted. The name ‘Aravalli’ strangely figures nowhere in the draft which is why it is just called ‘Regional Plan 2041’ but it does not identify the place for which the regional plan is being drafted.

The other changes include the deletion of keywords like limiting the construction activity to just 0.5 per cent in the natural conservation zones, preservation of 10 per cent forest cover in the NCR region part of the Aravallis, and provision to convert wasteland into the forest. Also, there has been a deliberate removal of words like ‘Aravalli’ (to define the area under the Aravalli Hills), ‘forest,’ ‘groundwater recharge’, from the original draft.

The question is, at whose behest have these important operational words been deleted.

The Haryana government for some strange reason has requested that words like ‘hills’ or the word ‘Aravallis’ should not be part of Regional Plan 2041. Haryana is a state with the lowest forest cover and it needs to protect its flora and fauna.

In 2009, the Supreme Court ordered a blanket ban on mining in the Aravallis. Haryana approached the SC last year seeking revocation of the ban.

Meanwhile, illegal mining has continued, and more than 21,000 illegal mining cases were detected in 2018 which led the SC bench asking if humans were “flying away with hills like Hanuman”.