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Monday, February 22, 2010

Mining banned in Aravali ranges

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Mining at 157 mines located in Aravali ranges spread over a 50,000 km area in 15 districts has been banned by the Supreme Court through an important order on 19 February, 2010.

Image: Aravali hill mining

It is reported that applications for renewal of lease of these mines had been pending with the Rajasthan Government. The Bench of Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan and Justice J.S.Kapadia and Aftab Alam ordered satellite imaging of the Aravali range. The Forest Survey of India has been given responsibility of imaging the area in cooperation with Central Empowered Committee on Environmental Matters and the Rajasthan Government for this exercise, as per order of the Supreme Court. The Compensatory afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Advisory Council would provide Rs. 5 crore. The Bench disapproved subterfuge and pointed out that mining was being allowed under the guise of pending decision on application for lease renewal.

The amicus curie and the senior counsel asked the Court earlier to ban mining activities in the state. He explained, reportedly that the Rajasthan Government was considering only those mountains which were 100 meters or more n height as part of the Aravali range and did not consider shorter hills as part of the range. Ranjit Kumar, another amicus curie said that the Court was concerned with the Aravali range in entirety and not with the height of the mountain. The report further said that mining activities should be stopped immediately otherwise it would lead to devastation both in terms of its magnitude and impact on ecology of the hilly area.

The senior counsel K.K.Venugopal appearing for the Rajasthan Government reportedly said that a committee of state officers was made to ask the State Remote Sensing Agency to take up satellite imaging of Aravali range(see The Hindu, February 20, 2010).

Key Words : mining, Aravali range, Supreme Court, CAMPA,subterfuge,Chief Justice, Rajasthan


Aravali Hills is a Hill System which stretches 560 km through Rajasthan state of India. It is divided into the Sambhar- Sirohi and the Sambhar –Khetri ranges. The hill contains varieties of minerals including quartz in large amounts. Most of the hills of the Aravali range are 300 to 900m in elevation and from 10 to 100 km in width. The highest hill of the system is reported to be Guru Sikhar on Mount Abu which is 1,729m high.

Image: 2- Map of India showing Aravali Hill System

Literally, Aravali means “line of peaks”. It is a range of mountains in Western India and Eastern Pakistan running about 800 km from Northeast to Southwest across Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat states of India; and Pakistan provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Locally these are also called as Mewat hills.

Aravali Hill System : A bird eye- view

Due do rich mineral resources, the hill system of Aravali has experienced years of illegal mining which has resulted a very fast erosion in Rajasthan and Haryana states. The hill system forms a natural barrier against the expansion of the Thar Desert northward in the Gangetic planes, in the Gangetic basin and Gujarat.

After many months of protests by public, local media, NGOs and several environmental groups, mining in 448 sq km area was banned in May 2009 by the Supreme Court. But Illegal mining continued in other areas. Now that the Supreme Court has banned mining in the whole area the protection of Aravali hill system is ensured by the law.

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