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Shocking video/photos expose Govt Officer’s lies about illegal slate mining in Dharamshala

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Illegal mining in Dharamshala

Shimla: Advocate Deven Khanna, the local commissioner appointed by the Himachal Pradesh High Court in a petition relating to violation of environmental and other construction guidelines and the illegal felling of trees within the area of Municipal Corporation, Dharamshala including Bhagsunag, Mclodgunj, and Dharmkot in Dharamshala, busted the alleged lies of the Mining Officer regarding the alleged illegal mining activity in the Khanyara region.  

This illegal mining was costing the state crores of rupees per month in terms of revenue in addition to environmental damages. 

The pictures and video posted below show an area which is victim to a completely illegal mining. The visuals speak for the destruction this region has witnessed due to a nexus of the government officials and mining mafia. 

Deven had visited the sites between April 14 to 22nd of April 22, 2018, and had photographed Khaniyara region and exposed the alleged white lie of the Mining Officer.

Himachal Watcher was able to obtain these photos and a video of effect region from official and non-official sources.

On the basis of this visual evidence, the bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel on April 25, 2018, had observed:

Prima facie, we are of the considered view that the explanation furnished by Harvinder Singh, Mining Officer who is present in Court with regard to the illegal mining carried out in Khanyara Panchayat is false. According to him, neither any illegal mining is being carried out at Khanyara nor has he ever received any complaint.

While the photos and video exposed the ground reality, the mining officer had filed replies in the court regarding blasting and illegal mining activities in Khanyara area claiming that no such business is going on in the said region. He further added that the mining activity was completely under control. Apparently, the officer was caught trying to allegedly protect the mafia. 

For now, the said official was transferred following it. The court had asked the state government to take action against the said official, which was still pending.

As per the tradition of the governments, their employees rarely get penalized for even grieve matters like submitting a false statement to the court regarding a very crucial environmental issue.  

Watch Video:

The mining officer had stated that frequent site visits were conducted in the Khaniyara area to check the Slate Mining activities. He said a Mining Inspector has been specifically deputed in this area to keep a strict vigil.

In addition to the routine visits, surprise inspections were also being conducted by the officers of the department and during the sites visits, no case of the blasting has been observed or reported or no complaint of the blasting has been received, the mining officer told the court.

Khanyara illegal mining photos 4

The illegal mining of slates in this area has been controlled to a larger extent and no case of the illegal extraction has been reported for the last one year,

the statement of the officer said. 

Upon the visit of the said locations, it was discovered that illegal mining was still rampant at Khaniyara Road, the information was verified by officers of the MC and local people. The site was visited and it was discovered that blasting and careless dumping of the mine debris had caused irreparable damage to the downslope vegetation, choked the streams and accelerated surface erosion, said Deven’s report rubbishing all these false claims.

Khanyara illegal mining photos

So serious was the environmental damage that a major portion of the mountain had a bombed-out desolate look. The patches were seen on the mountains due to the rampant mining for slate deposits which had spelt ecological disaster, the report said. Apart from threatening human settlements in the foothills, the activity had also eaten up large chunks of the forest, the report further said.

Khanyara illegal mining photos 7

It was pointed out in the report that the mining had cut into the forest area labourers were working under hazardous conditions because of the excessive use of dynamite in total violation of the Mines Safety Act.

Khanyara illegal mining photos 13

Deven’s report had further stated that mining in these areas is haphazard and the procedure adopted for mining is totally unscientific without using any standard mine plan maps or contour map or any standard method of national or international agencies.

Khanyara illegal mining photos 3

The slates are extracted either manually by using crowbars, chisels or by using local explosive for blasting. Unscientific excavation and use of high power explosives have resulted in cracking and loosening of the overlying rock formation, the report said.

The villages below the mining sites often experience flying rocks and rock fall which results in a number of causalities. Further, most of the area is under the protected forest demarcated by the Department of Forest, Himachal Pradesh and has been exploited in an unauthorized and illegal manner.

No reclamation measures such as the construction of check dams or retaining wall to check the erosional activity or other safety measures related to blasting are being adopted,

said the report. 

Slate mining has blotted the serene beauty of the forests of the area. Mining activities in these areas have caused the degradation of vegetation and soil cover, destruction of agricultural land and the encroachment of forest land, further leading to the deterioration of water resources, increase in erosional activities, silting of streams (Figure XVII), and massive landslides,

the report said.

The claims of the government regarding check on illegal mining, unlawful construction, and environmental conservation appears to be false or misleading considering the above report.

While in press statements, the government never misses the opportunity to add “Govt is committed to protect and conserve the environment,” the official machinery seems to be trying to protect the violators and for that, they are not reluctant to even file false replies in the court.

Khanyara illegal mining photos 12

The court has expressed its disappointment with the government officials multiple times while hearing the current petition that was filed by in 2015 by a whistle-blower Ghazala Abdullah. 

The original petition had requested the attention of the court towards environmental destruction for illegal construction. By 2018, the scopes of the petition were widened to accommodate more issues pertaining to similar matters.

Several crucial violations and facts appeared during the hearing of the petition, which would be covered in separate articles on Himachal Watcher. The next hearing in the petition is scheduled for July 30. 

Khanyara illegal mining photos 8

View More Pictures in Gallary 

Further, Deven in his extensive report had included following crucial suggestion to fix the environmental damages caused by illegal mining:

  1. Mined debris or the slate waste over the slope should be removed in order to bring back the regolith cover.
  2. The area should be seeded with quick growing grass and preference should be given to local species and mixed culture. Although the best plant known and used worldwide to stop the erosion is Vetiver. It not only holds soil on the mountain side but it creates its own terraces by collecting leaves, debris and eroded soil from above it. In addition to vetiver, a perennial grass known as Nash (vetiveria zizanioide) can also be grown.
  3. The mining area can also be restored by hydroseeding. This technique involves the spraying of soils, organic matter, grass seeds, adhesives and water in a fixed proportion which is kept in a slurry tank. The application of mixture is done at a pressure on a slope. Such technique is successfully adopted in the reclamation of limestone and rock phosphate mines in Dehradun and Mussoorie region (35).
  4. Mining should be avoided where there is a steep slope i.e. the slope angle is more than 45°. Check dams and gabion structure should be constructed to check the flow of soil, waste and debris along the hill slope.
  5. The problem of mining debris can be solved by utilizing it in making concrete blocks as it is eco-friendly and economically viable too and will also serve as a source of employment for the local population.
  6. Another important use of slate waste lies in the manufacturing of pipe, sheets and roofing plus flooring products as substitutes for asbestos in the asbestos The advantage of slate as an alternative to asbestos is that asbestos is a fibrous material and cause cancer. Hence, the use of slate can be accepted in the asbestos industry.

 

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

After NGT orders, Govt forms Special Task Force to check pollution in Ghaggar tributaries

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stf for ghaggar river pollution

Shimla: Bound by the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal on August 7, 2018, the Himachal Pradesh Government has constituted Special Task Forces (STFs) at the state and district levels to check discharge of effluents in into the tributaries of river Ghaggar.

The National Green Tribunal, in its order, had directed the chief secretaries of Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh to form STFs to deal with the pollution in the said river within a month.

It’s pertinent to mention that the neighbouring States have been blaming unlawful discharges of effluents from the industries established in Kala Amb into Markanda river. The pollution in the tributaries is reaching alarming levels. The court had to take Suo motu cognizance in the matter and pass orders to the state governments.

The NGT had also given directions regarding the officials to be included into these STFs. The will of the government in this entire process was completely missing.

The District level STF will identify the persons responsible for discharging of industrial and municipal effluents causing water pollution in river Ghaggar and its tributaries and will submit a monthly action taken the report to the State level STF, the government informed.

It said the State level STF will furnish a quarterly report or an action taken report to the Central Pollution Control Board. These reports will be uploaded on the websites of the State PCB as well as the Department of Environment, Science and Technology.

The state-level special task will include the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Environment, Science and Technology), Additional Chief Secretary (Urban Development), Member Secretary, H.P. state pollution control board as the Member Secretary of the State Level STF.

The officers in the district Level Special Task Force for Solan and Sirmour will include concerned Deputy Commissioners, the nominee of the concerned district and Session Judge, concerned Superintendent of Police, executive officer of the local bodies of concerned district, Regional officer, State Pollution Control Board of the concerned district.

Ghaggar river originates from the Shivalik Hills and passes through Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan before entering Pakistan.

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Satluj environmental impact report still not complete, but Himachal continues granting clearance to more hydropower projects

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Luhri hydropower project in rampur

Shimla: As per the Scientific American – the leading and one of the oldest science and technology magazine of the United States of America, the country has decommissioned as well as removed at least 1,000 dams so far, and several others are under the process of decommissioning. The removal of dams is costing the US a gigantic amount of money, but still, it is taking the pain to do the needful.

The reason was simple – the adverse and irreversible environmental damages of these dams. The Hydropower Reform Coalition (HRC), a joint platform comprising of 150 environmental groups, had been advocating the removal of the dams due to their impacts on the environment including the aquatic life.

On the other hand, in the State of Himachal Pradesh, blessed with five perennial rivers including the longest Sutlej, in addition to already operational projects, the government is trying to sell over 700 projects by inviting private investors.

The government argues that hydropower projects have given the state economy a boost along with creating employment opportunities. After agriculture and tourism, hydropower is the biggest contributor towards the state economy. Moreover, hydropower is ecofriendly.

However, the government does not want to stop here and is targeting to harness 100 per cent of the total power generating capacity. During Congress government, it was officially stated that a hydropower potential of 27436 MW was identified in the state. The state was harnessing only 10351 MW.

During the tenure of the Congress government, Himachal had commissioned about 31 hydropower projects of 2067 MW capacity and had earned a revenue of Rs. 3345 crore from the sale of free and equity power.

The new Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, after coming into power, had said that the hydropower projects were facing difficulties in getting clearances. He had announced that all such hurdles would be removed under the new government. There were no words about the impact on the environment at all.

The environmental protection has never been a matter of concern for both Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party governments in the state. The leaders are completely visionless in this regard, which is why the environmental impacts of the hydroporjects remain absent from the list of major poll agendas.  

The latest project in making is the new venture of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL); the Luhri Stage -I hydropower project (219 MW) on the last free-flowing stretch of the River Sutlej.

The environmental activists and groups are up in arms against the construction of more dams for the projects. The feedback from previous projects has shown that these projects did have an adverse effect. The project is proposed downstream of the 420 MW Rampur Project in Shimla and Kullu Districts.

Environmental group reaches the Expert Committee of Ministry of Environment

Raising objections to the granting of clearances to dams on the last free-flowing stretch of the Satluj River, the Himdhara Collective, an environmental group, recently sent a submission to the Expert Committee of Ministry of Environment demanding Cumulative Impact Assessment for individual projects on the Satluj river basin.

The committee, in its meeting to be held on August 28, 2018, is to consider the grant of Environment Clearance for SJVNL’s Luhri project. It’s the same project that was dropped after the SJVN faced resistance from the locals. Earlier, there was a proposal to construct a 750 MW project with a 35 km long tunnel in this stretch.

It was due to the objections of the local community that the massive tunnel will disturb the geology of the region, already prone to landslides that the project was dropped,

the submission said.

Instead, the HP government has now allocated three dams, namely, Luhri Stage I and Luhri stage II (163MW) and Sunni (355MW) in the same stretch. The key objection raised in the submission is that the committee instead of studying the overall impact of the three projects put together was looking at each project in a singular way.

70% of land granted for the project is forest area

The total land requirement for the three proposed projects is 654.02 hectares, which is twice the size of the land required for the earlier proposed 750 MW project. Considering 70% of the required land falls in the category of ‘forest’, this would lead to more deforestation in the Satluj River basin which has already faced severe forest diversion, erosion and slope de-stabilisation.

The move to build bumper to bumper dams on a single river basin is destructive and this is the reason why we have been saying that the Ministry of Environment should look at the cumulative impacts of the dams rather than for individual projects,

the environmental group stated in the submission.

The Govt denies reply to RTI seeking information on the CEIA Report

In 2013, on clear directions from the Ministry of Environment, the HP Directorate of Energy had commissioned Cumulative Environment Impact Assessment (CEIA) studies for all the major river basins of Himachal Pradesh. The process for Satluj river basin was initiated first in 2013. A series of public consultations were held in Pooh, Rekong Peo, Rampur where local communities and environmentalists had filed detailed objections.

The group said the DoE had even appointed an independent Panel of Environmental and Social Experts, which had submitted a damning report to the HP Government in 2015, raising that the state government was apathetic to the adverse impacts these projects had on the lives of local communities. However, since then, there has been complete silence on the CEIA study of Satluj river basin.

In 2017 we filed an RTI to the DoE seeking the final report, but the matter was transferred to the Union Ministry of Environment who did not respond despite appeal in the Central Information Commission. The matter is now pending in the Central Information Commission,

Himdhara members said in the submission.

For the last three years, the Expert Committee of the ministry has been according to clearances to hydro projects on the Satluj without even as much as mentioning the Cumulative Impact study that it itself had made mandatory to be conducted.

The CEIA should have a bearing on the decision to be taken in the Luhri I, II and Sunni HEP, else the exercise (CEIA of Satluj river basin) itself will be rendered meaningless given that, in the middle zone of the Satluj river basin this is the last and the only stretch of the free-flowing Satluj river.

the group said.

The group has demanded that the CEIA of Satluj river basin should be first finalized, and till then, all projects on the Satluj river basin must be put on hold. The issue of dam building in the Himalayas has also now become a major concern amongst mountain communities and environmentalists given the threat of disasters like cloudbursts floods and earthquakes to the lives and economy of the region.

However, the SJVNL terms these arguments as a non-sense saying there would be no tunnelling for the project. The company, like the centre and state governments, has as nothing to say about the CEIA report. Why is the government not finalizing the report and making it public if there is nothing wrong with the construction of the new projects?

Read Complete Submission

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Baddi MC turns site of Rs 9.7 crores proposed Waste Management Facility into illegal dumpyard

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dumpyard of Baddi MC

“We have filed close to 100 RTI applications with different departments on this issue. We have no other way to make our voice heard.”

Solan: While the Centre and State Government of Himachal Pradesh are claiming improvement on every front including waste management under Swacch Bharat campaign, as another infamous achievement, the State Government has turned the site of a proposed waste treatment plant for the Baddi town of Solan district into an illegal dump yard.

Due to the increased pollution and hazards due to the illegal dumping of Municipal Waste and the dysfunctional common effluent treatment plant (CETP) in their area, the residents of villages under two Panchayats, Malpur and Sandho, are compelled to form a front ”Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti to take the fight for the right for clean air and water to the door-steps of authorities.

The BBNDA was supposed to build a 9.7 crore ‘Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility’ on this spot where today they have created a foul-smelling open dump. This is totally illegal,

Sukhdev Singh, a resident of Malpur and Vice Chairperson of the Samiti said.

Baddi waaste management facility

Members of the Samiti of local residents

The BBNDA had in 2015 received an environment clearance for an ‘integrated solid waste management’ project provided 36 conditions were satisfied. (Read More Details in the Annexures Uploaded after the story)

The components of the project, expected to cost about Rs 9.7 crore, included a receiving facility, a compost plant, a recycling plant, a secured landfill, and a leachate collection unit

The aggrieved residents allege that none of this exists on the ground. Since 2016, the Municipal Council of Baddi started throwing waste on the site where this project was to be set up.

The illegal dumping came to the notice of the Environment Ministry ’s regional office during their half-yearly compliance monitoring visit about a year ago

The scientist, Dr Bhavna Singh, who visited the site had reported the violations and recommended an immediate suspension of dumping given non-compliance. However, the Pollution Control Board took no action on this front and the dumping continues to this day.

On July 19, 2018, we approached the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Deputy Commissioner of Solan, Secretary, Urban Development, the Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment about this gross negligence and have demanded that this illegal dumping be stopped and the site be immediately cleared,

said Rafiq, Deputy Secretary of the Samiti, also a member of the Gujjar Community.

The unscientific garbage dumping is posing a serious threat to not only the environment around but also to the 32 members of Gujjar families settled right in front of the dump yard. The Gujjar community is a scheduled tribe that practices their traditional livelihood of cattle rearing and are dependent on the public lands for purpose of grazing.

Baddi MC Dumping site

In addition, the dumping site is a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, rats, etc. and has caused an alarming increase in the incident of illnesses even to people who live in the neighbouring villages.

We are also writing to the Scheduled Tribe Commission and will go to the court if there is no action by the authorities,

added Rafiq.

Members of the Samiti in the last month have initiated a mass RTI campaign asking authorities for information about the dump and the actions taken by them.

We have filed close to 100 RTI applications with different departments on this issue. We have no other way to make our voice heard,

added Dharampal, secretary of the Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti.

Meanwhile, the BBNDA has gone into damage control mode and has made announcements about fogging the area regularly to prevent smell and flies.

These are superficial steps and they do not change the fact that for the last two years the authorities have been sleeping when actually they had ample time to construct a proper waste management plant if they wanted to. Our demand is clear that the waste can no longer be dumped here. The area needs to be cleared of all the dumped waste

, said Charan Das, a resident of Sandholi and Chairperson of the Samiti.

Annexure I – Environmental Clearance

Annexure II – Indemnification of Project and Project Proponent

Annexure III Monitoring Report by Dr.Bhawna-Singh

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