Illegal mining stages a comeback

Illegal mining stages a comeback Mining inside and on the boundary of Sariska National Park in Rajasthan's Alwar district has resumed despite a Supreme Court ban. Enquiries with the Zilla Khaniz Udyog Sangh (ZKUS), the local mine owners' representative body, revealed the action followed a recent letter from the Union minster for environment and forests Kamal Nath.

In the letter to ZKUS secretary R K Goenka, Nath said though he intends "to keep in view the ecological safeguards" necessary for Sariska, he is aware of "the needs of the mining community and the dependence of a very large number of workers on the mines". Nath also promised that "we will not needlessly take any step for the closure of the mines". The mine owners lost no time in filing a petition before the Supreme Court for permission to resume working their mines.

Ironically, the Supreme Court also received the report of a committee instituted by it for an appraisal of the environmental aspects of development projects in the Aravallis. Headed by environmentalist Kamala Chowdhry, the committee recommended a total halt to mining activities in Sariska. It has further recommended alternative leases to mine owners and rehabilitation of mine workers in "sustainable livelihoods", which could be generated through eco-development programmes in and around the park.