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Gujarat- Illegal mining in Tapi district causing havoc to environment

 Adivasi Ekta Parishad

 http://www.counterview.net

Ashok Shrimali

By Our Representative

The Ekta Parishad has strongly protested against the alleged large-scale illegal mining of soil, rampant in Valod taluka of tribal-dominated Tapi district in South Gujarat. In a representation to the government, a copy of which was submitted to the local executive magistrate, , the parishad, which is an all- body functioning in several states, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, has said that truckloads of soil is being transported from Mordevi village to elsewhere “without any information being provided about the area for which the permission has been granted, and the amount for which mining has been allowed.” The statement wonders if there is any record with the state government about all this.

The statement, which has been signed by Lalsinh Gamit, president of the Kosambia gram samiti, on behalf of the parishad, wanted the Gujarat government to clarify whether the state geology department has permitted mining of the area, and whether the gram sabha has allowed for the same, and if yes then when was it done and in the presence of which government official. “Truckloads carrying soil from the rural area take the soil indiscriminately, passing through the single track road, despite the fact that the road cannot bear such heavy load. This has led to at least two accidents, out of which one proved to be fatal”, the statement reads, adding, “This apart, the illegal mining activity is leading to the destruction of the environment and the rich agricultural land in the area.”
The statement demands that the Gujarat government immediately take action under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, on those who are doing illegal mining. PESA requires the scheduled tribal areas to be covered under tribal self-rule. It envisages giving liberty to tribals to follow their own customs and have control over their own resources through traditional rights. Gujarat is one of the many states where PESA has been put into force. Under it, criminal proceedings can be undertaken against those violating the tribals’ self-rule provisions.

Mining in progress

The statement says, “The government officials know pretty well that anyone who carries out mining in an area of two acres or more would require Gram Sabha approval, otherwise it would be violation of PESA. Permission was granted only to do mining for 2.8 lakh metric tonnes of soil, yet there is no record of how this permission was granted and the area for which it was given. It is the right of the villagers to know this.” It warns of protest against “illegal” mining in the area, adding, “Under the fifth and sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution, it is illegal to mine natural resources of a forest area without necessary permission of the villagers.”
Significantly, representatives from Valod went to the Mines, Mineral and People general assembly session, which was held at Vishakhapatnam in recently, where they raised the issue during the convention. Speaking on their behalf, Ashok Shrimali, a state-based senior activist who is executive member of Mines, Minerals and People, and is associated with two other NGOs, Setu and Samata, said, “Recently one development going on in Valod block villages of Tapi district. Villagers are fighting against Soma construction, which is converting the national highway between Surat and Dhulia into four-lane. The construction company is mining soil from the nearby villages without the approval of the villagers. Due to this, there has been direct adverse impact on existing sugar cane crop. Everyday more than 50 truckloads are transporting four times in a day.”

He informed the assembly that there is continuous protest by villagers of the area. A few days back, about 20 trucks were stopped from taking soil from the area, as they believed this was being done in violation of the tribal people’s fundamental constitutional right over their resources. Local officials and cops had to intervene. “PESA should be immediately activated in the area and mining of the region should be stopped”, he said. The issue was seriously taken up by the assembly, which decided to take it up with the authorities concerned in Delhi.

Sand mining area

Mining in the region is common. Following rampant illegal mining in the bed of Tapi river, the state mining department this February decided to book repeated offenders of illegal sand mining activity under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act. Till now, no such strict action was contemplated, as a result of which illegal sand mining became rampant. In February alone, the government’s geology department caught 23 trucks of illegally-mined sand and fined more than Rs 10 lakh to the sand lease mafia owners.
The biggest problem of the region is considered to be of sand lease contractors. They have a lease for mining specific quantity of sand from specified area of the river bed. But, they under the pretext of lease, mine much bigger area and much higher quantity of sand incurring huge loss to government coffers. The geology department has started registering police complaint in the sand theft cases. However it remains to be seen how much of a deterrent it will serve.

 

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