The central empowered committee of the Supreme Court has asked the Rajasthan government to immediately stop mining activities allowed around Sariska in “blatant violation” of the court’s orders and name the officers responsible so that “appropriate action” can be taken against them.
The decision to allow mining activities within one kilometre of the Sariska tiger reserve and Jamua Ramgarh sanctuary was taken at a meeting chaired by then acting chief secretary of Rajasthan C S Rajan on December 4, three days after the Assembly polls. “I do not recall that file. I can’t comment as I am not privy to the developments in this issue since last year,” Rajan told The Indian Express.
According to the forest department, there are 84 mines within one kilometre of Sariska tiger reserve and Jamua Ramgarh sanctuary.
While barring mining around national parks and sanctuaries, the SC, in its August 2006 order, ruled that as an interim measure a one-kilometre radius be maintained as a safety zone. This April, the apex court’s order in the Goa mining case made it clear that the 2006 order “has not been varied subsequently nor any orders made regarding Jamua Ramgarh sanctuary” and that “the order passed by this court saying that there will be no mining activity within one kilometre safety zone around national park or wildlife sanctuary has to be enforced”.
Referring to the two rulings, the SC panel sent a letter to the Rajasthan government on October 21, pointing out that the state, in blatant violation of the apex court’s directions, permitted mining close to national parks and sanctuaries by reducing the safety zone limit from one kilometre to 100 metres and sought the names of the officials who gave the go-ahead. A copy of the letter has been accessed by The Indian Express.
The effort to sidestep the SC’s 2006 order began in 2008 when the Rajasthan mines department referred to a 2003 communication of the central empowered committee that had recommended resumption of mining only after the boundary of Jamua Ramgarh sanctuary was demarcated on the ground. Claiming that the demarcation was complete, the state permitted mining outside the periphery of 100 metres of the sanctuary.
In 2011, when Rajasthan prepared a draft notification for eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) around its national parks and sanctuaries, it stuck to a 100-metre safety zone in the mining areas around Sariska. While the ESZ proposal has been under the SC’s consideration, the mining department, in January 2013, again referred to the 2003 CEC recommendation to justify allowing mining outside 100 metres of the sanctuary. However, a decision on the issue was put on hold in March 2013.
In December 2013, the government decided to withdraw the ban imposed by the state forest department in March 2012 and grant “consent to operate” to all mines falling beyond 100 metres of the sanctuary boundary. Other than Rajan, officials who cleared the decision included former chief secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, former mining secretary Sudhansh Pant and additional chief secretary (forest) O P Meena.
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