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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.  

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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 9 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 the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Garbage Dumping Polluting Giri Ganga River – A Drinking Water Supply Source of Shimla

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Giri Ganga River pollution in Shimla

Shimla– The Gumma Nagar Panchayat in Kotkhai, Shimla district, like most of the other rural areas, lacks a proper solid waste management system. As a result, the usual method adopted here is dumping daily solid waste down the hill in an official dumping yard.

The locals from the panchayat wrote to Himachal Watcher regarding the adverse effect the dumping site in Gumma causing.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (2)

Overflowing dumping site in Gumma

They said the panchayat has allocated the site shown in the photo above to dump their garbage. This garbage is mostly left unsorted. 

With the growing population and increasing number of shops, the hillside is now overflowing with rubbish. This overflowing waste from the dump finds its way down to the Giri river water. 

It not only looks unsightly but also emits a foul smell. Moreover, the half-burnt rubbish flies in all directions, mostly downhill into the water.

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 3

The office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH Subdivision Gumma, is located near to this location. Still, the issue is being ignored. 

“Interestingly, the Department of Irrigation & Public Health is sitting above the location, blind and oblivious to it all,”

Devanshe Chauhan Lidgley, a local told Himachal Watcher.

IPH Office in Gumma

Office of the Assistant Engineer, IPH, Gumma

She further added,

“Complaints have been made to the Gumma Panchayat Pradhan who showed helplessness since it was a decision made by higher officials,”

The panchayat pradhan of Gumma told HW that, indeed, the area is facing a problem with daily garbage. There are five wards in the Nagar panchayat, and villagers do not have any common dumping ground. 

“The villagers have found suitable spots near their habitats where they dump their daily garbage,”

Tara Chauhan, the Pradhan of the panchayat told HW

“The dumping site shown in the pictures is particularly created to accommodate daily waste generated by shops in the market. The market has about 300 shops, and the daily waste is transported through pic-ups to the dumping site,”

she added.  

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district 03 (1)

A Pick-up dumping Gumma Market’s daily waste downhill

She also accepted that this dumping site is now overflowing as the amount of waste dumped is increasing. The issue has been brought to the attention of district administration of Shimla, she said, adding that the administration has asked the panchayat to find a new location for the creation of another dumping yard. However, it’s hard to procure land for it as no one would allow the creation of dumping site on private land, she said. 

“Earlier, we used to set the garbage ablaze when dumping reached on the verge of overflowing. However, now, we have directions not to burn garbage as it causes air pollution,”

Chauhan told HW. 

Gumma dumping yard in Shimla district

As a matter of fact, the said dumping site is overflowing and, in monsoon, a lot of waste is likely to find its way into the Giri Ganga. 

Giri Ganga is one of the main sources of drinking water supply to Shimla, and there is no need to say more why it requires immediate intervention of the district administration and the state pollution control board to prevent water pollution.

In the past, Shimla has already witnessed instances of jaundice outbreaks due to contaminated water that had killed about two dozen people.  However, it appears, we are waiting for another catastrophe to happen before appropriate action is taken.  

The garbage dumped here needs to be removed regularly and disposed of properly before the next truck of garbage is dumped. 

“Is the ‘Swaacch Bharat’ campaign only on papers? How can the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) succeed if the sources of Ganga are being polluted?”

asked the local.

It is a matter of concern that the district administration is still stuck at creating dumping yards, which is not a proper way to dispose of solid waste. At the same time, the villagers are left at their own to deal with the daily waste they generate. The State government needs to provide a solid waste treatment facility in rural areas.  

However, there are reasons to believe that the government is hardly concerned about this gigantic environmental issue. The only waste treatment plant that was supposed to convert Shimla town’s municipal waste into energy, is lying defunct. Instead, the locals allege, the plant has been turned into a dumping yard, which was on fire last month. The fire kept smouldering for over a week. 

A similar example was witnessed in Kenduwal of Baddi in Solan district where the Municipal Council and the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA) were supposed to construct a solid waste treatment plant. They had obtained the clearance for the same on August 13, 2015, and were allotted 42 bighas and 13 Biswas of land in Kenduwal. 

However, the plant never came up and the two responsible authorities created a huge dumping site by violating a number of environmental laws and guidelines. Not only they created this site on the flood-plains of Sirsa river but also ignored human habitat located at a distance of 30 meters from it.  The families living in this habitat had to approach the state High Court to get relief from the hellish conditions created by this illegal dumping site. 

 

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Environment

Neglecting Warnings of Environmental Groups, Studies, HP Govt to Sign MoU for 5 More Hydro Power Projects

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Five more SJVNL hydroproject in himachal Pradesh

Shimla-Ignoring the appeals of the environmental groups and studies indicating devastating effects of hydro power projects on Himalayan ecology and on the lives of the locals, the State government of Himachal Pradesh has decided to allocate five more projects.

An Environmental group Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective had in June 2019 released their report titled “The Hidden Cost of Hydropower” to highlight the risks associated with hydro power construction, especially in Himalayan regions like Himachal Pradesh.  Echoing the fragility of the Himalayan region due to geological instability and climate change-related disasters like flash floods and cloud bursts, the report had highlighted the role of construction activities that accentuate this fragility.

However, in a meeting Chaired by the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on July 6, 2019, the government has decided to sign 5 MoUs with SJVNL.

“Proper memorandum of understanding (MoU) would be signed for five hydro power projects most likely in the month of August, this year, which have been allocated to the SJVNL,

Chief Minister said.

These projects include Luhri stage-1 (210 MW), Sunni Dam (382 MW), Dhola Sidh (66 MW), Luhri, stage-2 (172 MW) and Jangi Thopan (780 MW).

“These five hydro power projects have the potential of investment of Rs. 15,000 crores and would provide employment to around 8,000 people,”

he said.

He also suggested that the Chenab river basin would also be developed as it has a capacity of 3000 MW hydro-power generation. The five projects allocated in the Chenab basin have been cancelled and now the government would consider the viability before further allocation of these projects and providing concession to the investors, he said. 

The Chief Minister termed the decision as best possible efforts to boost investment in the hydro power sector. He claimed that this sector is not only an engine of growth but also has immense potential to provide employment. He said the government would expedite the pace of execution of power projects, which had slowed down during the last few years.

The above-mentioned report of the Himdhara Collective had also found that over the last few years, increasing evidence has emerged that hydro power production may not be so ‘clean and green’ after all.  This report, that compiled primary and secondary pieces of evidence of the impacts triggered by underground construction for the run of the river (ROR) hydropower projects, highlighted the issues of environmental hazards and risks involved.

The Report had also mentioned that there are severe environmental hazards linked to the construction of these projects, which the government was not ready to admit. As a result of this deliberate neglection, the villagers, rivers, local water sources, farming lands, local wildlife etc. were suffering. Houses of people were destroyed due to seepage of water from tunnels of hydropower projects and they were forced to evacuate.

The Report had also said that the Ministry of Power had issued an order in March 2019 recognizing hydro power projects with a capacity of more than 25 MW as ‘renewable’ source of energy, thus eligible for further subsidies. Himdhara’s report, however, had brought out that hydro projects do not deserve the ‘green’ tag and the government should stop further subsiding the sector, especially large projects.

You can read the complete Report Here

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Environment

Forest Fires – NGT Issues Guidelines for Effective Implementation of Action Plan for Control

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NGT Guidelines for controlling Forest-fires-in-himachal-pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh is the storehouse of biodiversity and animal life, which exists in perpetual threat of forest fires. Out of total 45,000 species of plants found in the country, 3,295 species (7.32 percent) are present in the state. More than 95 percent of flora species are natural to the state and characteristic of Western Himalayan flora, while about five percent (150 species) are exotic introduced over the last 150 years.

Forest department records show 22 percent, or 8,267 sq km of the total forest area, particularly in the mid and low hills, is fire-prone. Majority of the fires are reported from pine forests since, during summer, the trees shed pine needles that are highly inflammable for their rich content of turpentine oil. The pine forests are found up to an altitude of 5,500 feet.

Official figures show that 2018 was the worst year with 2,469 fire incidents reported — the highest in eight years — that consumed 25,300 hectares of forest across the state. In 2012-13, the second-worst year, pine forest fires consumed 20,773 hectares with a total of 1,798 cases.

There are 196 forest ranges in the state, of which 80 are most sensitive and fire-prone.

Recently A Coram of Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson), J. and S.P. Wangdi (Judicial Member), K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member), JJ. and Dr. Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) in Rajiv Dutta v. Union of India laid down guidelines for effective implementation of the action plan for controlling forest fires.

Tribunal in one of its interim Orders had sought a report on:

  • Fire alerts
  •  Mapping of forest areas which are critical and vulnerable
  •  Steps for fire line cutting as preventive measures for forest fires

Further, in the same order, a direction was made to prepare “A National Policy” periodically, and keep it updated under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Section 5 of the Act envisages Forest Fire Management Plans, Crisis Management Policy, plans for relief, rehabilitation and restoration, financial resources, manpower, transport, fire-fighting equipment, community involvement, including 2 involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions, Van Panchayats, satellite-based forest fire alert system in collaboration with the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) and the Forest Survey of India (FSI), use of media for information, dissemination and awareness, having a nodal officer to oversee fire prevention and control at Head Quarters to coordinate with different Government agencies, dissemination of best practices and experiences, network of automated surveillance or watch towers/observation posts at strategic locations, mock drill exercises, capacity building at various levels.

The Hon’ble Tribunal, on the basis of the said report submitted by MoEF, gave the following guidelines:

  1. Though a comprehensive action plan had been duly adopted, its implementation required a robust institutional mechanism in view of the increase in the incidents of forest fires.
  2. Institutional mechanism for preventing and controlling forest fires may comprise of representatives of the MoEF&CC, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Wildlife Institute of India, National Disaster Management Authority, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Forest Survey of India (FSI) and the National Remote Sensing Centre representing the Central Government on one hand; and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of all the States/Union Territories on the other hand.
  3. The Central Monitoring Committee will be headed by the Secretary of MoEF with seven members mentioned in point no. (ii) above. The Secretary would be free to add any member or expert, apart from special invitees, if any.
  4. Central Monitoring Committee must meet once in three months and address all the issues arising out of forest fires, including the effective implementation of NAPFF.
  5. The Tribunal also noted that from the NAPFF, a national level database must be developed for burnt area assessment on a yearly basis.
  6. Standardized protocols and procedures must be developed by ICFRE and FSI to facilitate the reporting of the area affected and losses due to the forest fire.
  7. ICFRE was also directed to assist in designing and organizing adequate training programs for forest officials at various levels.
  8. The Secretary, MoEF&amp may issue directions for the constitution of an appropriate institutional mechanism at State levels also.

 

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