The Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation ( UFDC) has sought clearance of forest area measuring 628.8 hectare (ha) for the renewal of sand and boulder mining in the state’s Song and Jakhan rivers in Dehradun district.
In 2009, the union environment ministry had granted forest clearance to UFDC to mine over 1,325 ha of forest land in Dehradun district for ten years, which includes the area being proposed for mining again. According to UFDC’s proposal on the environment ministry’s Parivesh website, during monsoon, riverbed material got collected in the rivers which led to flooding. By extracting this material from the riverbed, flooding can be prevented.
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Environmental experts, however, said without a replenishment and carrying capacity study, continuous mining for decades could lead to erosion, degradation of ecology, change in river course, etc. “There is no replenishment study for these rivers where mining has been going on for decades. There is no district survey or mining plan either. The Uttarakhand government keeps saying that mining should be done to remove excess riverbed material and to prevent flooding but where is the study showing that mining can prevent flooding? It’s particularly worrying because this is forest land and there is very little monitoring of whether mining is carried out only in the area approved for mining and at the depth mentioned,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, a Delhi-based advocacy organisation.
The environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) and National Board for Wildlife had earlier sought cumulative impact assessment studies of impact on Uttarakhand’s rivers. “The state government shall conduct a study to ascertain the impact of mining upstream and downstream. The study shall come out with clear recommendations as to how such mining is useful in maintaining the natural flow of the river and health of adjoining forests. It should cover the impact of mining in the area for the last ten years. The study may correlate satellite imagery of the last ten years,” FAC had observed in April. It had added the government should also quantify how much sand and boulder can be mined annually.
Uttarakhand’s application will be considered by the Forest Advisory Committee on Tuesday. The FAC will also consider the Ujh Multipurpose Hydel project in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, involving submergence of 680 ha of forest land and 3,669.9 ha of non-forest land. According to Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation, the project has been planned to utilise the water resource potential of Ujh, a tributary of Ravi. The project has been declared a national project as it allows India to utilise its share of the Indus River system.