Illegal sandstone excavation is causing immense damage to the ecosystem in the Aravali ranges of Rajasthan as the sandstone mafia have been scooping out massive volumes of the mineral from the Aravali ranges.
The state is already facing the ire of the Supreme Court for unscientific unbridled mining leases in Aravali hills in violation of the apex court’s orders. The latest CAG report has also pulled up the state government on this issue.
The Supreme Court in 2005 restrained any kind of mining in forest areas and in Aravali hills where permission was granted after December 2002. However, many violations of the above order have been pointed out by the CAG.
Such illegal mining activity was rampant in the Roopwas-Bayana blocks of Bharatpur district and went on unchecked for years. But now, the Anti-Corruption Bureau has stepped into expose the unholy ties between the authorities and the miscreants. This is the first time where the ACB has taken up an issue related to environmental concern and attempting to clamp down the collusion.
The ACB also sought a report from the forest and mining department asking for an assessment of the demage caused to the forest cover in the Mewar region due to the illegal activity and loss caused to the state exchequer.
Three people including police inspector, a constable and a hotelier have been arrested while many more are expected to fall in the net soon.
Illegal sandstone mining has caused not only huge loss to the state treasury but has also environmental degradation as a result of the collusion between government officials right from the block level administration to forest, mining, R.T.O. and other police departments were being benefitted of the illegal mining activities. The ACB sources say it is going to widen its scope of investigation to pin down one and all who are responsible for the forest destruction in the area.
In November last the ACB had been tipped of police patronage to sandstone mafia by cops of Roopwas police station. It came to light that the mafia members were paying hefty amount on monthly basis to cops.
This is a welcome step by the ACB of Rajasthan and let us hope that it will put some deterent in illegal mining. But such surveillance is required in all mining areas which will not only help save environmental destruction and earn money to the state exchequer, but will also save the genuine license holder miners who pay hefty amounts to the treasury, from the losses caused because of illegal mining.
As per CAG report the officials of Ministry of Forest and Environment have gone against the direction of the apex court by granting renewing and extending leases for areas that formed a part of the Aravali hills. Illegal mining activites not only put stress on the national resources such as forests, rivers, flora and fauna but also have an adverse effect on public health.
The CAG report also discloses that the pollution control board failed to pay adequate attention to matters related to the environmental effects of mining between 2010 and 2017. The officials inspected only 28 out of the 136 leases that were selected by mining engineers.