Illegal mining has affected the Aravali range which serves as a barrier to check the expansion of Thar desert into the neighboring states of Delhi, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.
But, since four decades (1972 – 2022) the range has shrunk from 10,462 Km to 6,116 Km accounting to 40% degradation.
As per a study conducted by the Haryana government, there are 12 breach points in Aravali range accounting to 93 Km.
These gaps are widely constituted by Magar Peak in Ajmer Rajasthan to Madhogarh and Khetri in Junjhunu district and towards the north of Mahendragarh district in Harayana.
The Singhana-Digrota is the largest void which extends up to 22 km, is the huge window for sand storms to hit Delhi NCR.
Apart from migration and climate change induced deforestation, illegal mining of this green fort is another major cause for depletion.
Illegal mining mafia in Aravalis
The above demarcation depicts the:-
- Illegal mining hot spots around Aravalis.
- Affected region (area around the blue track)
- Eco-sensitive region in the vicinity of mining area.
Field data of illegal mining
As per the report of eight membered committee chaired by Chief conservator Forests (from the Forest Department of Haryana) with an official from Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change, mining officers and senior Police officers.
Illegal mining was prevalent in 16 locations as recorded from Mar 2021 to Mar 2022 these areas are:-
- Pandla Hills near Gairatpur Bas village.
- Aravalli area near Tikli village.
- Palla village in Nuh block.
- Baghola village in Ferozepur Jhirka block.
- Jalalpur Sohna village.
- Kotla Khandelwal village (1,980 MT of Clay).
- Tauru block near Bissar Akhbarpur (15,750 MT of Clay).
- Ferozerpur Jhirka block near Hirwari Bamatheri village (3,240 MT Stone).
- Faridabad and Gurgaon districts.
Importance of Aravalis
- Aravali hills is the key factor which decides the climate of upper-gangetic plain.
- The hills check the movement of sand from the Thar desert (of Rajasthan) to Delhi NCR and surrounding other states.
- Apart from this, the mountain range also plays a vital role inground water recharge, soil conservation, flood prevention and water cycle.
- This green patch (around four decades ago) was the source of seasonal rivers in the region, which served as the moisture-magnet for the breeze arising from Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal.
Impacts of illegal mining
- Due to unrestrained mining in the region there is a significant depletion of green lands in the eco-fragile areas around the region, specifically Sarika National park located in Aravalis has been on decline.
- A report by Forest Survey of India in 2017 revels 1 to 2 Sq km of forest land degradation in Delhi
- Rainfall has substantially decreased from 60 to 80 days (four decades ago) to 18 to 30 days at present.
- Various water bodies like Ajabgarh lake, Pankot lake, Dumduma lake, Jaisamad lake, Kotla lake and smaller ponds in Asola wildlife sanctuary have either shrunk or disappeared completely.
- Urban heat islands are getting developed in Jaipur, Alwar, Delhi and Gurgaon regions with a sharp rise of 2 – 5 °C during night times increasing the chances of heat strokes.
The Mining Mafias
The mafia gangs have a huge political nexus which get cash bribe from the illicit trade. To evade the laws mafia groups have constructed private roads and bridges to smuggle sand and Agricultural land has been razed by force to pave way for the trucks.
These gangs deploy informers in villages to suppress anyone who voice against them.
The miners directly take the extracted stones to the local crushers, disguised under a thick sand layer to avoid inspection. There are around 125 illegal crushing units in Metwa and three in Gurgaon division.
Several Armed men guard the route baring out any outsiders.
“Even the cops do not dare to inspect the spot,” says Mahesh Sikarwar, they get their “Hafta” (bribes). And any attempt to track them down or stop them results in perilious risk.
One of the mafia gang leader Sikarwar says “This is our bank. The transporters, contractors and real estate businessmen who purchase sand send cash through truck drivers.
This money goes to politicians, mining officer, policemen, forest officers, regional transport officer, irrigation department officials, environment department and district administration officers.”
Bunkers are setup along the riverbank to escape raids by hiding weapons and money.
The criminals like Sikarwar left free and un-arrested reveals the extent of corruption in the system.
Flaws in law
Even though the Aravali hills are declared as eco-sensitive region by the National Capital Region Planning Board, the successive governments of Haryana have failed to ‘notify the status to the region’.
Apart from the refusal to grant ‘deemed forest’s status, exclusion of the entire forest from NCZ (Natural Conservation Zone) and reluctance to implement the Tree Act have aided illegal mining.
The inspection teams get misled by the villagers (colluded with mafia) who divide the quarried mines among themselves and claim that they are meant for their personal use.
Despite of establishment of the District Environment Impact Authority and (DEIA) District Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC) there is no major improvement because of shortage of staffs.
In several states 50 projects gets reviewed in a day granting environmental clearance with a mere 1% rejection.
Status of illegal mining in India
UNEP in 2019 ranked India and China as top two countries where illegal sand mining is rampant.
The illegal mining is rampant because of imbalance in the demand for sand. According to the global consumption sand is the second most commercially essential element.
Nearly 40 billion tons of sand gets unlawfully mined from river beds every year. This has caused tremendous loss to the government; Uttar Pradesh 70% revenue loss, Bihar ₹700 crores, Karnataka ₹100 crores and Madhya Pradesh ₹60 crores.
- A research conducted by Nat Geo says that, Crushed Urban solid waste and Crop residue can replace sand.
- When technology like Pegasus is used to indefinite surveillance, it’s very affordable to track unlawful mining by drones and satellite mapping.
- Further, public must be encouraged with suitable protection to report any such incidents.
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