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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Mined debris or the slate waste over the slope should be removed in order to bring back the regolith cover.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Himachal to Adopt ‘Borehole Resin Extraction’ Method to Minimize Damage to Pine Trees & Maximize Quality
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.
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.
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.
Shrikhand Mahadev Faces Garbage Crisis, IMF Team Collects 1900 kg Garbage During 12-Day Cleaning Campaign
Kullu-During 2019 season, a local boy treks the holy shrine of Shrikhand Mahadev. Shrikhand is not only a holy place but is also a very beautiful and picturesque place at an altitude of 5300 metres.
Lalit Mohan had imagined the place to be green, clean and tranquil, which was the reason he had decided to trek it. Little did he know that the mountain was no longer the grand trail he had trekked years ago. He was shocked over what has become of this place. There was crowd everywhere and terraces had been cut over the campsites to accommodate numerous tents. Most of the water sources had dried up and remaining were badly polluted with plastic waste. He was surprised that the situation was the same even at the top, which is supposed to be the holy spot. A lot of offerings were made in plastic bags and glass bottles.
He returned to Delhi and wrote a letter to the Director of Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) for hosting a cleaning drive along the entire trek. With a positive response from the director IMF, Col. H.S. Chauhan, a cleaning drive expedition was planned by the IMF in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and NSS. A team was formed that comprised of the members of the Indian Mountain Federation Lalit Kanwar, Praveen Dahiya, Hemant Sharma, Nikhil Chauhan and Rajat Jamwal. The team was led by Lalit Mohan. The expedition was flagged off by the SDM, Anni, Kullu district, on October 2, 2019.
The team got to work from the base campsite at Shingad and collected unethically disposed of garbage from the campsites at Brati Nala, Reyosh Thach, Khumba, Thathi Bheel, Thachru, Kali Ghati, Bhim Talai, Kungsha, Bhim Dwar, Parvati Bagh, Nain Sarovar and the Shrine on top. The garbage mostly comprised of remains of plastic sheets, bottles, wrappers, left-over food etc.
Two major reasons behind this widespread littering and unethical disposal of garbage are the public feasts (Bhandaras) and the pandals erected to host them. Moreover, there were around 700 private tents which were set up throughout the mountain. Also, these tents do not provide even temporary toilets and visitors relieve themselves in open wherever they can.
It is also important to note that the Kurpan stream, which flows through this valley, is the only snow-fed source of drinking water for many villages.
It appears that authorities responsible for granting permission for setting up campsites in this fragile environment did not pay any attention to prepare a proper plan for waste management. Most of the area falls in the reserve forest category, and it is surprising to see that according to the forest rules, no one can be granted permission to set up a campsite in a reserve forest area.
The team made their way to the top in minus 10 degrees temperature and was shocked to find plastic waste strewn over the glacier too. The team collected a total of 1900 kgs of garbage in about 170 sacks. The sacks were ferried down the mountain with the help of local people, who came ahead to support the team in its quest during the expedition. The team returned to Nirmand village on the October 14. The garbage was deposited with the Block Development officer at Nirmand. The team held meetings with schools students at Jaon and Bagipul villages to spread the message of conserving and protecting the environment and taking steps to maintain cleanliness in the mountains.
HIMCOSTE ENVIS HUB Training on “Securing High Range Himalayan Ecosystems” Begins Today
Shimla- HP ENVIS HUB at Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), Shimla, today kicked off its one-month training program on Para-taxonomy under the GoI-UNDP-GEF Project “Securing Livelihoods, Conservation, Sustainable use and Restoration of high range Himalayan Ecosystems” (SECURE Himalaya).
This program is being conducted in collaboration with HP Forest Department and State Biodiversity Board for Lahaul, Pangi and Kinnaur landscapes of the State. Under this program, selected youth would be trained for documentation of local biodiversity in the form of People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs).
The Chief Guest of the inaugural function was Dr Savita, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife). Sh. Anil Thakur, CCF (Wildlife) and Dr S.P. Bhardwaj, Retd Associate Director, Regional Fruit Research Station, UHF, Nauni were special guests on the occasion.
Speaking on the inaugural function today, Dr Savita, PCCF (Wildlife) said that snow leopard is the iconic animal of high Himalayas. A good number of these apex predators denote a healthy ecosystem. To ensure the survival of these beautiful animals, sustainable use of forest resources and generation of alternative livelihood opportunities is pertinent.
The initial step to conserving local biodiversity is its documentation as Peoples Biodiversity Registers (PBRs). She lauded the efforts of ENVIS Hub in implementation of Green Skill Development Program (GSDP) last year and now training students in SECURE Project.
Dr Aparna Sharma, Coordinator, HP ENVIS Hub, informed that under this course, selected students would be imparted theoretical and practical knowledge by eminent experts in the fields of botany, zoology, forestry, wildlife, importance and conservation of Biodiversity, waste management, remote sensing & GIS. In association with State Biodiversity Board, field visits would be carried out to prominent Universities, Research Institutions and conservation areas of Himachal Pradesh for exposure to local flora, fauna and its documentation in PBRs.
A total of nine students have been selected for the training program: six from Pangi, two from Lahaul and one from Shimla. The best of trained youth would be involved in making PBRs in selected landscapes by the HP State Biodiversity Board.
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