The Rajasthan government has issued environmental clearances after nearly 26 years to 37 of 42 Intent holders to restart mining of the pink sandstone which will be used to build the Ayodhya Ram Temple.
Pink stone for Ram Temple
Additional Chief Secretary (Mines) Subodh Agarwal said: “This month, mining of the pink and red stones has already started on 3 leases. The remaining 34 leases will begin mining in July. With this legal mining, the State will not only obtain income from royalties but the mining will be carried out in a safe and responsible manner.”
Subodh Agarwal said in a statement on Friday that legal mining of pink and red stone has already started this month at three mines in the region.
Agarwal said the state Environmental Impact Assessment Committee had issued authorization to 37 Letter of Intent holders, paving legal sandstone mining in Banshi Paharpur after nearly 26 years.
In December 1996, the Supreme court-issued order that non-forestry work without diversion was prohibited, so legal mining in the area was stopped. In view of the demand for Banshipaharpur stone in the country and the world, illegal mining was going on in the area and law and order were being disrupted day by day.
The result of effectively representing the state was that the auction process was successfully completed, first through the diversion of forest land from the central government and then through the preparation of parcels.
Centre clears mining to supply sandstone for Ayodhya
In 2021, the Union Ministry of Forestry, Environment and Climate Change approved the diversion of forest land for sandstone mining in Banshi Paharpur. Thereafter, the State Mines Department started preparing the mining block at Banshi Paharpur and started preparations for its auction.
Agarwal said that Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot ordered him to do everything possible to stop illegal mining and allow only legal mining in Bansi Paharpur. As a result, the department started an electronic auction of 41 lots after permitting the area to be excluded from the wildlife sanctuary area and for diversion of forest land.
Mining cultivators are being approached for red sandstone by those involved in the construction of Ram temple. “I have three mines in the area and recently I was approached by people involved in buying stones for the Ram temple. Deepraj Singh, a mine owner from Banshi Paharpur, said things are on hold till operations resume after signing an agreement with the government and permission from the pollution control department.
Highest number of mining leases
Rajasthan has the highest number of mining leases in the country: 1,324 major mineral leases, 10,851 minor mineral leases, and 19,251 stone quarrying licenses. The state earned around Rs 590 crore from royalties from major minerals such as lead, zinc and limestone in 2004-2005. But the sector contributes only three per cent of the state’s income.
The Rajasthan government has failed to control illegal mining in the forest areas. Udaipur, the most forested district of Rajasthan, is also the most mining. The government has issued leases for hundreds of mines in Sariska National Park.
Mining continues unabated in Sariska and Jamwa Ramgarh sanctuaries despite repeated orders of the Supreme Court to close them. This has had a devastating effect on the forest cover of the state. In 1971, the Bijola area had 23,800 hectares of dense forest; By 1991, only 12,800 hectares were left, and only 2,700 hectares were dense. The National Center for Advocacy Studies reports that about 4,996 hectares of this forest land have been converted for mining since 1980. (Pink stone Ram Temple)
In Rajasthan, extensive mining of sandstone, marble and other minerals has turned the Aravallis into a rocky wasteland. Soil erosion is occurring on a large scale, the natural recharge of groundwater has been affected, and river banks have been filled with coarse sand. This is despite being notified as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) in 1992, more than three-decade ago.
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