NGT, in its August 22 order that was released on Friday, said: “The next report should categorically furnish status on assessment on environmental damages already occurred in Aravali districts (Faridabad, Gurgaon and Nuh) and their rejuvenation/restoration.”
The bench of acting chairperson Sheo Kumar Singh, judicial member Arun Kumar Tyagi and expert member Dr A Senthil Vel was hearing a petition by Gurgaon resident HS Khatana, who alleged that rampant illegal mining was polluting groundwater and depleting the district’s green cover.
The tribunal noted that it was “pious/legal duty” of the state to control illegal mining in the ancient hill range, which is the only physical barrier stopping expansion of desert-like conditions from Rajasthan towards north India.
“There is nothing in the report as to what action has been taken by the authorities concerned to control the illegal mining in quantified terms… we direct the authorities to (submit a) report (on) action taken within three months… Time bound action plan on restoration of Aravali districts of Haryana may be filed with the report,” the order read.
At the hearing, the bench also pointed out that it has passed several directions to enforce rules to curb illegal mining, and for that, the state government and the mining department were statutorily bound to act against violators.
The government, in its submission to NGT on July 17, said that it had formed the Aravalli Rejuvenation Board to deal with complaints on illegal mining and protecting the hills. Besides that, the report signed by chief secretary Sanjeev Kaushal also said steps were being taken to deploy drones and install CCTV cameras for surveillance, and district-level task forces were already in place for monitoring any illegal activities.
The case will be taken up next on November 30.
Asked about NGT’s order, a mining officer said the department will submit the reply as directed.
“We will soon have a meeting of the Aravalli Rejuvenation Board to take the decision on the restoration plan. We will then submit the same to NGT,” said Anil Atwal, mining officer of Gurgaon and Nuh.
When asked about the delay in using cameras and drones apart from setting up check-posts to guard the Aravalis — a measure announced years ago — Atwal said, “Now that we have ARB, all these decisions will be taken by the board. Proposals for cameras and drones have been sent to the Gurgaon development authorities.”
In 2009, the Supreme Court imposed a blanket ban on mining in south Haryana — Gurgaon, Faridabad and Nuh — after observing extensive damage to the Aravalis of the region. Despite the ban, lack of vigil has failed to put a stop to quarrying of stones, most of which are used by the construction industry.