SC directions, various laws on mining being flouted with impunity in J&K

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Apr 13: In blatant violation of Supreme Court of India directions and provisions of Environment Protection Act, 1986, the Geology and Mining Department has granted mining lease for extraction of gypsum within the vicinity of national park and wildlife sanctuary. Moreover, unauthorized extraction of mineral has been going on right under the nose of the concerned authorities.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 provides that no mining should be carried out in wildlife reserve area. Even the Supreme Court of India has notified areas falling within 10 kilometers of the boundary of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries as eco-sensitive zones and extraction of minerals in such areas has been prohibited.
However, the Geology and Mining Department didn’t adhere to the provisions of the Act and the directions of the Supreme Court and instead granted mining lease to lessees for extraction of Gypsum within the vicinity of Kazinag National Park and Limber-Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuary despite reservations raised by the Wildlife Division of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Commissioner Secretary, Forest Department in April and October 2010 respectively.
In the audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India it came to fore that 1,11,613 Metric Tonnes of Gypsum minerals were extracted by 13 lessees during the period between 2007 and 2012 in these areas. The granting of mining lease in the protected areas led to illegal mining which indicated casual approach of the department towards the sensitive issue of environment protection.
Though the Coordinator of Geology and Mining Department told the CAG that notification of Supreme Court would affect future prospects of Gypsum mining in the area as all Gypsum bearing areas of the Kashmir valley fall within one kilometer radius of wildlife sanctuary, the reply was not tenable as granting of mining lease/extraction of mineral in the protected areas by the Department was a clear violation of rulings of Supreme Court.
Not only this, the provisions of Water (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Pollution Control) Act, 1981, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, which envisage enforcement of various conditions while extracting Gypsum from mining sites, have been found violated.
During physical verification of mining sites it came to fore that enforcement of conditions such as raising of green belt by planting native species around the leased areas, dump sites etc, metal topping of major approach and haul roads, stacking of top soil in earmarked dump sites by the lessees had not been ensured by the department.
At Gypsum Mines in Gala (Assar), Doda and in Naloosa (Baramulla), no plantations were raised by the lessees thereby violating the provisions of various Acts. Moreover, it was also found that protective safety measures had not been adopted by the labourers while extracting Gypsum from mines.
It has also been detected by the CAG that lessees extracting Gypsum didn’t obtain renewed consent of the State Pollution Control Board after expiry of one year thereby violating the norms. The consent of operation for five lessees operating in mining sites at Batote, Galija, Jathi, Assar, Buniyar and Salamabad Uri had not been got renewed by the lessees despite lapse of three to four years.
However, the State Pollution Control Board failed to take action as a result of which unauthorized extraction of mineral continued right under the nose of the concerned authorities.
What to talk of checking illegal and unauthorized extraction of mineral, the authorities concerned have also failed to prevent transportation and storage of minerals. The Mining and Geology Department has not taken any measure in this regard despite the fact that State Vigilance Organization had in April 2010 alerted the department to man the mineral check posts during late hours as transportation of minerals has been taking place in early morning/evening hours and during night hours.