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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.

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SC’s Forest Diversion Regulation a Blockade on Forest Rights Act Implementation in Himachal: Himdhara

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Supreme Court On Forest Diversion in Himachal Pradesh 2

ShimlaHimdhara Collective, a Himachal-based environment research and action group, has released a report on the implications of the regulation imposed by the Supreme Court on forest diversion under the Forest Rights Act 2006 in Himachal, through a series of orders passed last year. This brought to a screeching halt the implementation of Section 3(2) of the FRA which grants powers to gram sabhas and Divisional Forest Officers to divert upto 1 hectare of forest land for 13 types of village welfare activities like roads, schools, community centres, PDS shops etc. 

The court orders were based on the conclusions drawn by a Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, headed by a retired PCCF, V.P Mohan, that the diversions were leading to green felling and deforestation in the state. Initially, a stay was imposed on all green felling in the state (in a matter of forest diversions under FCA 1980 and FRA 2006) on 11th March 2019. This stay was partially relaxed but the Supreme court sought all FRA proposals to be brought before it for further diversion.

The report titled ‘Missing the forest for Trees’, assesses the ground reality behind the conclusions drawn by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee based on which these diversions have been restricted.

“We have found that the Supreme court’s orders need to be reviewed because the alarm raised by the V.P Mohan committee with regard to FRA was a false one”,

stated authors of the report which is based on analysis of RTI information as well as field research.

RTI data sought from the Forest department for all cases under section 3(2) of the Forest Rights Act 2006 from 2014 to 2019 (up to January 2019), was analysed to reveal that 17237 trees were felled in an area of 887.56 hectares for 1959 activities in 41 of the 45 forest divisions of the state.

Roads, followed by schools and community centres dominate the type of activities carried out. Of the total land diverted 91% is for roads. It was found that almost 64% of these diversions showed ‘nil’ trees felled. The average number of trees felled per hectare is very low (19.52) and it may be induced that most activities have been carried out in areas with open forest or no trees.

Rohru (Shimla), Nachan(Mandi), Kinnaur and Chopal were some of the divisions which had a large number of diversions, again mostly for roads.

Case studies we carried out in Mandi and Kangra district showed the desperate need for amenities like village link roads and schools. In Himachal, there remain about 41% villages that have no road connectivity which affects access to health, education and market centres.

On the other hand, large development activities like four lane highways, hydropower projects and transmission lines, have had a much larger ecological footprint in terms of tree loss in the state compared to the very minute, incomparable diversions under FRA.

The report also finds that as far as green cover is concerned in the period corresponding to the high number of forest diversions under FRA (2015-2019), the forest survey of India’s statistics show a 333 sq.km increase in the forest cover.

Why development rights under FRA important for Himachal?

1.No Land available with revenue departments and panchayats for ‘welfare activities’ thus forest land only option

The report concludes that given the fact that 2/3rd of the geographical area of the state is recorded ‘forest area’ where strict forest laws have restricted non-forest use, the FRA provides relief for communities to access basic welfare facilities, which should be seen as their fundamental right and therefore should not be hindered.

2.Cumbersome, costly and lengthy process under FCA 1980

Before FRA it was the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 which governed forest diversion even for small local development activities. This required not only permission from the Central Government (MoEFCC Regional or Delhi Office) but also warranted that user agencies deposit funds (Net Present Value of trees) to carry out Compensatory Afforestation. The whole diversion process under FCA was cumbersome, lengthy and costly, and thus a major hurdle in providing the rural areas, especially remote areas, access to basic welfare development facilities.

 “The section 3(2) of the FRA provides relief for both governmental departments and local communities as it overrides the FCA and puts in place a simple and decentralized process for diversion”states the report.

3.FRA is meant to correct the problems that were posed by strict central forest laws

The Forest Rights Act was passed by the parliament of India in 2006 recognising that across the country there are lakhs of communities dependent on land which is legally categorised as ‘forest land’ and are unable to exercise their basic livelihood and development rights due to extremely strict forest laws. Under this act’s Section 3(1), forest-dependent communities can file claims for their individual and community rights exercised before the cut-off date of 13th December 2005.

“As it is Himachal has been sluggish with FRA implementation and only 136 titles have been issued under section 3(1). But atleast the government was proactive with the implementation of section 3(2). With the Supreme court orders regulating this provision, there seems to be an impression amongst the implementing agencies and officials that there is an over-all blockade on FRA in the state”

added members of the collective.

The report has recommended that the state government and nodal agency for the Act – the Central Ministry of Tribal Affairs, put forth the case in favour of section 3(2) of the FRA strongly in front of the Supreme Court and also move swiftly to ensure implementation of all provisions of this law in Himachal.  

 

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HP Govt Exempts Use of Plastic Straws Attached with Beverages for 6 Months

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Plastic straws in himachla pradesh

Shimla: The use of integrated plastic straws attached with tetra pack of beverages are exempted temporarily for a period of six months in Himachal Pradesh, informed a spokesperson of the state government on January 31, 2020.

He informed that the exemption would be a subject to the implementation of Action Plan submitted by M/s Tetra Pack India Pvt. Ltd., AARC under Extended Producer Responsibility.

During the relaxation period, the manufacturers and producers are to come out with an alternative to plastic straw, which is bio-degradable, he informed. A notification in this regard has been issued recently.

He said that other provisions of the notification issued by Department of Environment, Science and Technology of HP on September 20, 2019, which imposes complete ban on plastic cutlery such as spoons, bowls, katories, stirring sticks, forks, knives, straws made of plastic, would remain banned.

He said that this notification will come into force with immediate effect.

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Himachal to Adopt ‘Borehole Resin Extraction’ Method to Minimize Damage to Pine Trees & Maximize Quality

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Pine Resin Trapping in Himachal Pradesh

Solan-In the past decade, intensive resin tapping by rill method has resulted in the drying of thousands of pine trees in Himachal Pradesh. It has also been observed, that the application of higher concentration of acid, used as a freshener, had adversely affected the growth of trees and even the tapped surface area is not healing.

Therefore, the HP State Forest Development Corporation will soon adopt the borehole technique of oleoresin extraction to minimize the damage caused to pine trees by resin tapping and simultaneously increase the quality of the collected resin.

It was informed by Himachal Pradesh Forest Minister Sh. Gobind Singh Thakur during the concluding session of the one-day training of officials from HP State Forest Development Corporation at the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF) Nauni. The method has been developed by the scientists of the Forest Products Department of the university. 

Bore hole resin extraction

Borehole Resin Extraction’ Method

The Forest Minister said that the department would adopt the new technique in the coming time so that the twin motives of resin quality and its quantity along with ensuring the good health of the trees can be met. He said that the Forest Department will work in collaboration with the university so that the benefit of the various technologies developed by it can be put to the best use for the development of the state.

BD Suyal, MD State Forest Corporation said that technique is quite encouraging and the corporation will take up setting up 10-15,000 bores in every directorate to assess the results of the method. He added that in the second phase the contractors and the labourers will be also be trained on technique by the university. Earlier, Dr Kulwant Rai Sharma gave a detailed presentation and practical demonstration on the technique to the forest officials. He said that the adoption of the technology can prove to be boon for the forests and the resin industry. 

What is Borehole Method of Resin Extraction  

The new method involves drilling small holes (1 inch wide and 4 inches deep) with the help of simple tools into the tree to open its resin ducts. The holes are drilled with a slight slope towards the opening, so that oleoresin drains freely. Multiple boreholes are arrayed evenly around the tree’s circumference, or clustered in groups of two or three. Spouts are tightly fitted into the opening with polythene bags attached to it with the help of tie for resin collection.

resin trappig method in Himachal Pradesh

Borehole Resin Extraction’ Method

The new technique was developed in an attempt to overcome some of the limitations of other conventional methods. A key feature of the method is that a closed collection apparatus prevents premature solidification of resin acids, thereby maintaining oleoresin flow for an extended period of up to six months. Due to reduced oxidation and contamination, the end product is of higher quality with substantially higher turpentine. The average yield per tree is almost the same if numbers of boreholes on a tree are adjusted as per the maximum carrying capacity of the tree. The method also allows tapping of lower diameter trees depending upon their potential of production without having any impact on their health. The crown fire hazards incidents are also less because there is no hard resin accumulation on the main stem and spread of ground blaze can be easily avoided by removing the bags well in time.

The rosin and turpentine oil obtained from borehole method are of very good quality, which can fetch higher prices in the market. In addition to tackling the problems of tree health, labour requirements and costs for borehole tapping are significantly lower than conventional methods. The borehole wounds cause little damage to the tree bark and since these holes are near the ground level, only a healed scar can be seen in the converted woods. Therefore, there is no damage to the merchantable part of the tree.

Further, the Forest Minister also said that the university and the forest department will look to work together for establishing an eco-tourism model on the university campus. He added that the University Vice-Chancellor will be invited to all the important policy meetings of the state forest department to seek their expertise. The forest minister visited the demonstration block of borehole technique and also planted a tree at the university.

UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr Parvinder Kaushal called for continuous interaction between the university and the forest department. He emphasized on apprising the grass root level workers and train them on the new technique.

The event was attended by  BD Suyal, Managing Director, HP Forest Corporation; KK Kataik Director(South); Dr JN Sharma, Director Research, Dr Kulwant Rai Dean College of Forestry and other officials of the university. Around 30 officers of the rank of Divisional Managers and Assistant Managers from various parts of the state took part in the training.

 

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