Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gujarat High Court Orders to Stop Mining Activities Within National Parks

An Asiatic lion in its natural habitat

The Gujarat High Court has recently ordered the state government to stop mining activities within one kilometer of all 34 national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and conservation reserves. According to the court, the order is applicable even if mining is being operated by companies with a no-objection certificate. The court further directed the government to file an action-taken report, which is to be drawn up by the state department of forests and environment, by the 24th of February. The government was also asked by Justice R.R Tripathi to form a high-power committee consisting of principal secretaries of industries and mines department, forests and environment department, and revenue department. This issue came out during a hearing on a petition filed by Param Udhyog, which demanded permission for mining. The high court caught wind of a government resolution passed on April 8 2008, stating that mining activities would be permitted even in the five-kilometer zone from a national park boundary which is prohibited. However, an advocate for the petitioner named Amit Panchal made it clear that the resolution was contradicting the Supreme Court's 2006 orders. In response, the state government promised the high court that it would disallow any mining or industrial activity within the one kilometer zone of any national park. Following this assurance, the high court demanded the government to prohibit all mining activities across Gujarat.

I'm very proud of the Gujarat High Court in conveying this message to the state government. The state, like India itself, is home to a rich variety of wildlife. Some of which found nowhere else in India. These animals like the Indian onager, which thrives in the hot arid region of Kutch. The lion at one time ruled over much of western and central India, but now its kingdom is limited in the Saurashtra region. However, the problem with the region is that it is prone to limestone mining especially near the boundary of Gir Forest. I sure hope that after what the high court said, the state government will take its word and put into action. Furthermore, the Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary has been the target of mining due to huge deposits of limestone, lignite, bentonite, and bauxite. Yet this sanctuary is a haven to Gujarat's chinkara (Indian gazelle) population. If the mining industry prevails, then the chinkara will lose its home and so will the remaining wildlife. As of now, I'm happy that the high court made it clear that mining activities would not be allowed in the future. However, I also feel that there are other places in India rich with mineral deposits but also happen to house national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. I hope that governments in those states would hopefully, if possible, follow Gujarat's government in protecting their local wildlife from mining and other industrial activities.

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