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SC suspends mining in Aravallis
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 8
The Supreme Court today “suspended all mining operations in the Aravalli Hill Range” in Faridabad and Gurgaon districts, including Mewat, till a “Reclamation Plan” approved by the state, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) was put in place.

“The satellite images indicate the devastation caused to the area by the extensive mining operations. Extraordinary situation demands extraordinary remedies. In the circumstances, we are of the view that mining operations should be immediately suspended in the above area,” the Forest Bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said.

The Bench, which includes Justices Arijit Pasayat and SH Kapadia, said it would “deal with mining of minor minerals” after the summer vacation that would end on June 30. This issue involved a “localised area of 600 hectares out of 448 sq km (approx.) for purposes of excavating construction material” required for construction work, including sports complexes, apparently meant for next year’s Commonwealth Games.

The 30-page judgment, written by Justice Kapadia for the Bench, pointed out that mining operations had been carried out “on a disproportionate scale” in the Aravalli hill, mainly in Gurgaon and Faridabad, including Mewat.

The Bench clarified that the decision to declare the Aravalli area in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Mewat as a “Prohibited Zone” for mining of major mineral was taken at a meeting the court-appointed CEC had with the Haryana government on January 7 this year.

The court had clamped a total ban on mining in the entire Aravalli Range covering Haryana and Rajasthan on October 29/30, 2002, but modified the order on December 16, 2002, to permit mining on sustainable development principle.

On March 18, 2004, the court clarified that “a window was left open” for it to re-impose the total ban in the case of emergency. “In other words, a gateway was provided for this court to impose the ban in future if degradation of environment becomes irreversible,” the Bench pointed out.

The Bench said it was brought to its notice that mining leases were granted without environmental and other required clearances and this resulted in environmental degradation. Despite such breaches, approvals had been granted for subsequent slots without taking into account the macro effect.

“Time has now come, therefore, to suspend mining in the above area till statutory provisions for restoration and reclamation are duly complied with, particularly in cases where pits/quarries have been left abandoned.”

“…we hereby suspend all mining operations in the Aravalli Hill Range falling the state of Haryana within the area of approximately 448 sq km in the districts of Faridabad and Gurgaon including Mewat till Reclamation Plan” was in place.”

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