Tribune News Service
Dharamsala, July 26
Residents of Khaniara village in Dharamsala lost the right last year to carry out slate mining in Dhauladhar hills after the state government failed to deposit about Rs 1.6 crore as Net Present Value (NPV) for 25 hectares of forest land that was to be diverted for mining purposes with the Compensatory A forestation Monitoring and Planning Authority (CAMPA).
As per the documents available with The Tribune, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had given the March 13, 2014, deadline to the state government for the deposition of the NPV with CAMPA, pending which it had threatened to cancel the ad-hoc permission for mining on the land in question.
Sources here said, “Till date, the state government has not deposited the NPV, but the illegal mining on the land is continuing.”
District Forest Officials at Dharamsala had written to the Industries Department for the deposition of the NPV with CAMPA. The District Mining Officer, Jyoti Kumar Puri, was not available for comments despite repeated calls on his mobile phone. The General Manager, Industries Department, when contacted, said the matter was to be dealt with by the Mining Department.
Khaniara village was once the hub of slate mining for the entire state. However, due to environmental concerns and the impact of mining on Dhauladhar mountain ranges, the Supreme Court (SC) had banned mining in the area.
The state government represented the case of residents of Khaniara whose main source of livelihood was slate mining in the SC. The apex court then allowed mining on 25 hectares of forest land in the village in 2002. However, before the forest land could be diverted for mining purposes the state government through its Mining Department had to deposit the NPV of forest land with CAMPA.
The sources said slate mining going on in the village was Illegal. As per the rules, the NPV had to be deposited by the state government with CAMPA. Till the amount was deposited, no mining could have been allowed on the said land. CAMPA had been set up as per the directions of the Supreme Court for compensatory afforestation of areas that are being diverted from conservation of the Forest Act. Despite the fact that the NPV has not been deposited and forest land has not been diverted on paper, the illegal mining is continuing. The forest officials who were responsible for checking illegal activities on forest land have turned a blind eye to illegal mining. The sources said it was the duty of the forest officials to patrol and prevent any kind of illegal activity on forest land.
The MoEF had written a letter to the Principal Secretary, Conservator of Forests, Himachal Pradesh, on January 31, 2014, that the state government had not deposited the NPV.
In the letter, a copy of which was available with The Tribune, the MoEF had maintained that in case the Mining Department failed to deposit the NPV within the stipulated period (March 13, 2014) it would not consider approval for allowing mining on the said land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
On the other hand, environmentalists are demanding an inquiry into how mining has been continuing on forest land at Khaniara village for the past many years.
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