Jaipur: What Joshimath is seeing today will be seen in Rajasthan somewhere after 25 years if the present menace of illegal mining remains unchecked in the desert state, veteran environmentalists say while warning of a “disaster which is out of expectation”.
“There are many hills which have gone missing in the state. In fact, on the other hand, hills have been created on plains by the locals by dumping garbage,” Congress MLA Bharat Singh quipped while mentioning the insensitivity of people engaged in illegal mining in the state.
Singh has been vocal on the issue of illegal sand mining and has been attacking his own government.
He recently wrote a letter to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and demanded the dismissal of state Mining Minister Pramod Jain Bhaya, terming him “land mafia”.
Speaking to IANS, Singh said, “Joshimath story will be repeated in Rajasthan too. It is sad that governments realise the gravity of the issue when the situation goes out of control. In our state too, Joshimath story is being repeated… The illegal mining in the state has thrown many challenges out, however, everyone seems to be sitting with folded hands. They will wake up from slumber when disaster happens.”
The Congress MLA further said, “The entire ecology has changed in the region. The sad part of the story is that such facts are being reviewed under its economic ambit, keeping monetary prospects in mind and hence everyone has joined hands in this illegal act… Unitedly, they are engulfing hills.”
Singh said that he will protest in Mining Minister’s constituency on January 23, the day when the Assembly session starts in Jaipur.
Meanwhile, environmental activist Mahendra Kachhwa, said, “Illegal mining and Rajasthan have become synonymous. In fact, these mafias have not even spared forests and have entered the core areas of forests, threatening the tiger breed. There has been massive destruction in Ranthambore in core tiger conservation areas… many illegal mines are running in areas spread over 1,100 hectares of land.”
“The sad part is that the miners have dug 30 feet deep pits in jungles, even in areas inside Ramgarh Sanctuary where tigress goes to deliver. There is rapid encroachment and mining inside jungles and hunting also goes rampant. If forest area gets disturbed, the surrounding areas will also be affected,” he added.
“Jawai Sanctuary, Ranthambore national park and Sambhar lake are all dominated by these illegal mining mafias. Salt mafias dominate in the Sambhar region. The results of it are out in open. The lake which once used to dry during May-June has now dried in November and December… The reason is simple, there is no trained dedicated staff to check it (illegal mining) and there is no protection for the staff who raise voice (against it). Eventually open murders are being reported in the state,” Kachhwa asserted.
Like Singh, he also believes that Rajasthan will see Joshimath-like situation in the future. “What we are facing in Joshimath, after 25 years you will see the same situation here as encroachment and mining are increasing and the area is turning into concrete jungle”.
Babulal Jaju, another environmentalist said, “Illegal mining has brought the state in a pathetic situation. It (illegal mining) is going on in almost all districts like Bharatpur, Alwar, Rajsamand and many more. Rivers have dried up because of this malpractice. Sand has been dug out from rivers openly under the nose of officials which has affected the aquatic life.”
He warned: “Joshimath story will surely be repeated in Rajasthan if there is no full stop to illegal mining. The reason behind Joshimath story is greed and lust for unwanted development. They want to turn nature into business. Same story is being repeated here. There is greed for uncontrolled development, which will become ‘cancer’ and will leave people crying.”
In 2018, the Supreme Court also referred to a central empowered committee report that 31 hills or hillocks have vanished in the state’s Aravalli area. The disappearance of hills in Rajasthan could be one of the reasons for the rise in pollution levels in Delhi, the apex court had said.
Earlier, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report also said Rajasthan’s mines department granted, renewed and extended mining leases violating Supreme Court’s orders against mining in the Aravali mountain range.
Illegal mining in Rajasthan which has a rich reserve of copper, lead, zinc, rock phosphate, soapstone, silica sand, limestone, marble and gypsum in the Aravalli mountain range has razed several hills over the years, said sources.
Recently, a saint self-immolated in the state protesting against the illegal mining in holy Braj area alleging that holy hills are disappearing courtesy illegal mining.