Mining in Aravalli – UPSC GS1

  • Haryana State government’s moves to seek Supreme Court’s permission to resume mining in the Aravalli hill region.
  • Mining has been banned in Gurugram and adjoining districts for more than a decade now as per the Supreme Court orders.
What is causing degradation of Aravalli? 
  • Increasing population pressure
  • Changes in rainfall pattern
  • Spreading of sand dunes
  • Flawed plantation drives.
  • Unchecked quarrying and illegal felling of trees
  • Clearing of land for the construction of farm houses and residential colonies
  • Over-exploitation of resources and reckless urbanisation.
The environmentalists have strongly opposed legalising of mining in the Aravalis in the National Capital Region based on the following arguments.
  • Impact on air quality:
    • Already poor air quality in NCR.
    • Faridabad has the worst air quality in Haryana and figures among the most polluted cities in the world. Gurugram, too, had topped the list of most polluted cities in the world in 2018.
    • The destruction of the Aravalis would worsen the NCR air pollution situation.
  • Impact on groundwater resources:
    • The Aravalis with their natural cracks and fissures have the potential to accommodate two million litres of water per hectare in the ground every year.
    • The resumption of mining in the region could prove detrimental to the already fast depleting groundwater level in the region posing a water security threat to the residents of the region.
  • Impact on wildlife:
    • The wildlife surveys show that Gurugram and Faridabad hills act as a significant wildlife habitat and corridor, especially for the leopards. There is also movement from and into the Asola wildlife sanctuary. The resumption of mining here will be disastrous for the wildlife.
  • Desertification:
    • The Aravalli mountain range is the only natural barrier against desertification.
    • The resumption of mining activity in the region would lead to further deforestation in the region further exacerbating the threat of desertification in the region.
  • Threat posed by illegal mining:
    • A very high number of illegal mining have been reported from the state.
    • Mining, when earlier allowed, was carried out in a haphazard manner without adhering to the norms causing huge damage to the environment and the wildlife.
Why mining should be allowed?
  • As per the Economic Survey of Haryana 2020-21, the collection from mining for 2020-21 till January is ₹770.00 crore, the highest since 2005-06. This amounts to a substantial stream of revenue for the state government.
  • The mining in this region would not just help meet the demand for construction material but also generate employment.
Way forward:
  • Selecting suitable areas for mining:
    • Mining should not be done in NCR districts adjacent to Delhi which are important wildlife habitats and corridors, have poor air quality and high population. Mining should also not be allowed in thick forest areas. Mining should be confined to isolated hillocks in distant areas with minimal impact on wildlife corridors and air quality.
    • This would result in minimum damage to environment and help ensure sustainable development.
    • A survey needs to be conducted to identify the possible areas for mining.
  • Creating conservation zones:
    • The government could consider notifying 50,000 acre of Aravalis as deemed forest and retaining all Aravalis in south Haryana as natural conservation zone.
  • Afforestation measures:
    • The government should come up with a three-year road map to take the legal native forest cover in the State to 20% as per the Haryana Forest Department policy target. This move could help offset some of the negative impacts of deforestation carried out for mining operations.
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