The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said that limestone mining operations, within 10 kms of Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan's Chittorgarh, will remain prohibited till the expert panel conducts a detailed study of its impact beyond the boundaries of the eco-sensitive zone.
The Tribunal's directive came while hearing a petition which opposed illegal mining of limestone in and around the Chittorgarh Fort, close to Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary. The famous fort, which is more than 1,500 years old, has more than 150 temples and monuments inside.
"As regards the prayer for a vacating order prohibiting mining within 10 kms from the sanctuary, in the light of the ESZ notification, we find that permitting mining too close to the sanctuary is against the precautionary principle. Thus, the said prohibition will have to continue till a decision is taken by the experts to study the impact of mining beyond the boundaries of the ESZ as per notification," the Tribunal's order on September 24 said.
The bench said that the precautionary principle states that if there is a risk of severe damage to humans or the environment, absence of incontrovertible, conclusive, or definite scientific proof is not a reason for inaction.
The tribunal's principal bench, headed by its Chairman, Justice (retd) Adarsh Kumar Goel, has directed the joint committee to conduct a detailed study, to undertake a visit to the site and interact with the stakeholders, and then submit its report within one month.
The seven-member joint panel will have representatives from the Forest Department (Chief Wildlife Warden, Rajasthan), the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, the Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Dehradun, IIT-Roorkee, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the state PCB, as well as the District Magistrate of Chittorgarh.
If the report suggests prohibition/restriction on mining beyond the prohibition/ restriction in the ESZ notification, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change may revisit the said notification upon which the interim order of this Tribunal will end and final notification so issued will prevail, subject to the same being challenged by the aggrieved party as per law, the Tribunal added.
"We make the interim order dated March 8, 2019, on the subject of prohibiting mining within municipal limits of Chittorgarh city absolute subject to further orders of the Supreme Court. We direct that the interim order dated on the subject of prohibiting mining in the radius of 10 kms from Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary will continue, subject to further orders of the Supreme Court, till the Ministry takes a call on the issue of revising ESZ notification in the light of report of the seven-member Expert Committee," the tribunal said.
It did not agree with the submission of Birla Cement Company that in view of the ESZ notification, the interim order passed by the NGT be modified so that the matter is now governed by the said notification.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has also asked the Ministry and the CPCB to conduct a joint meeting within one month to formulate guidelines for sustainable limestone mining on the pattern of Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMG-2016) and Enforcement & Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining (EMGSM-2020).
( 536 Words)