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Supreme Court Halts New Mining Licenses in Aravalli Ranges

Context:

In response to a report by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the Supreme Court has ordered a halt to the issuance of new mining licenses and renewals for existing ones in the Aravalli ranges and hills. This decision reflects concerns about the environmental impact of mining activities in the region and aims to safeguard the delicate ecosystem of the Aravalli ranges.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Facts About the Aravalli Range
  2. Key Concerns Related to Mining in the Aravalli Range
  3. Way Forward

Key Facts About the Aravalli Range:

  • Geological Origin: The Aravallis are among the oldest fold residual mountains globally, formed from the convergence of tectonic plates during the Proterozoic Era (2500-541 million years ago).
  • Elevation and Division: With elevations ranging from 300m to 900m, the range comprises two main divisions: the Sambhar Sirohi Range and the Sambhar Khetri Range in Rajasthan.
  • Highest Peak: Guru Shikhar Peak on Mount Abu, reaching 1,722 meters, stands as the highest peak within the Aravalli Range.
  • Tribal Communities: The region is home to major tribal communities such as the Bhil, Bhil-Meena, Meena, Garasia, among others.
  • Mining Ban: In 2009, the Supreme Court imposed a complete ban on mining in the Aravalli hills of Faridabad, Gurgaon, and Nuh districts of Haryana.
Significance:
  • Biodiversity: The Aravallis host 300 native plant species, 120 bird species, and diverse animals like jackals and mongooses.
  • Ecological Barrier: Serving as a barrier between fertile plains in the east and the Thar desert in the west, the Aravallis play a crucial role in regulating ecosystems.
  • Impact of Mining: Excessive mining in the Aravalli Range is linked to desertification, with loess found in Mathura and Agra suggesting desert expansion due to ecological degradation.
  • Climate Influence: The Aravalli Range significantly influences the climate of northwest India, acting as a barrier during monsoon seasons, guiding moisture-laden winds towards Shimla and Nainital, and protecting plains from cold winds in winters.

Key Concerns Related to Mining in the Aravalli Range:

  • Ecological Disruption: Mining activities break ecosystems, displacing wildlife such as leopards, hyenas, and various bird species, disrupting food chains and ecological balance.
  • Threat to Endangered Species: Mining in ecologically sensitive areas threatens habitats of critically endangered species like the Great Indian Bustard.
  • Water Scarcity: The Aravallis serve as natural water reservoirs; mining disrupts natural water flow and table recharge, leading to water scarcity downstream, impacting agriculture and settlements.
  • Impact on Spring Recharge: Research indicates a decline in spring recharge due to mining in Haryana.
  • Air Pollution: Mining generates dust and releases harmful pollutants like silica, affecting air quality and causing respiratory problems in nearby communities.
  • Soil Erosion and Desertification: Removal of vegetation cover exposes soil to erosion; wind and rain wash away fertile topsoil, leading to desertification.
  • Decline in Forest Cover: Studies show a significant decline in forest cover in the Aravalli region of Haryana, likely linked to mining activities.

Way Forward:

  • Stricter Regulations and Enforcement: Implementing and enforcing stricter regulations can minimize environmental damage.
  • Adoption of Dust Suppression Techniques: Require mining operations to implement dust suppression techniques like water sprays and covering stockpiles.
  • Innovative Solutions: Utilize innovative solutions like green walls and green mufflers to mitigate environmental impacts.
  • Proper Reclamation and Restoration: Ensure mined areas are properly reclaimed and restored to minimize long-term ecological damage.
  • Eco-Friendly Mining Techniques: Adopt eco-friendly mining techniques and technologies to reduce environmental footprint.
  • Support for Communities: Provide support to communities dependent on mining by creating alternative livelihood opportunities in sustainable sectors.

-Source: The Hindu


June 2024
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