NGT refuses to vacate order prohibiting mining operations in Chittorgarh


PTI, Sep 28, 2021, 2:39 PM IST

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has refused to vacate its order prohibiting mining operations within 10 km of Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary in Chittorgarh, Rajasthan, saying it is against the “Precautionary principle”.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said prohibition will have to continue till a decision is taken by an expert study on impact of mining beyond the boundaries of Eco-Sensitive Zone.

It said that such study may be conducted by a 7-member joint Committee comprising Chief Wildlife Warden, Rajasthan, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Dehradun, IIT Roorkee, CPCB, State PCB and District Magistrate, Chittorgarh, the bench said.

The NGT directed the committee to hold its first meeting within one month and undertake a visit to the site and also interact with the stakeholders.

The Committee will be free to conduct proceedings online, except for site visit and the report may be given to the Ministry of Environment and Forests within three months of its first meeting.

“As regards the prayer for a vacating order prohibiting mining within 10 km 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 after an expert study of impact of mining beyond the boundaries of ESZ as per notification,” the bench said.

The precautionary principle states that if there is risk of severe damage to humans and/or the environment, absence of incontrovertible, conclusive, or definite scientific proof is not a reason for inaction.

If the report suggests prohibition/restriction on mining beyond the prohibition/restriction in the ESZ Notification, the MoEF 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 said.

Till MoEF revisits the notification, the interim order of this tribunal will continue to operate subject to further orders of the Supreme Court, the green panel said.

“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 km from Bassi WildLife Sanctuary will continue, subject to further orders of the Supreme Court, till the MoEF takes a call on the issue of revising ESZ notification in the light of report of seven-member expert Committee,” the bench said.

The tribunal did not agree with the submission of Birla Cement Company that in view of ESZ Notification, interim order passed by the NGT be modified/vacated so that the matter is now governed by the said notification.

The NGT said that a joint Committee of MoEF and CPCB may meet within one month to formulate guidelines for sustainable limestone mining in consultation with any other expert/institution.

“The guidelines may be framed within three months of the first meeting of the Committee. MoEF may thereafter issue appropriate guidelines within one month in exercise of statutory powers under the Environment Protection Act. CPCB will be the nodal agency for compliance,” the bench said.

“A joint Committee of CPCB, State PCB and District Magistrate, Chittorgarh may take further remedial action. The exercise may be completed within six months.

“The State of Rajasthan and regulatory authorities in the State dealing with the regulation of mining – Secretary, Environment, Secretary, Mining, State PCB and District Magistrate may ensure that mining is conducted as per environmental norms under the Water Act, Air Act and EP Act, including the notifications under the EP Act for sustainable mining,” the bench said.

The tribunal was hearing an application filed by Rajasthan native Pratap Bhanu Singh Shekhawat who had highlighted the issue of massive air pollution which posed a threat to the lives of the people living in the area.

Shekhawat said that living in Chittorgarh city was becoming extremely difficult due to air pollution because of open-cast mining.

“Quarries were scattered across the municipal limits of the city, and in many of them, limestone and other minerals were being extracted within a 15-km radius of the city centre,” the plea said.

“Moreover, Chittorgarh has a famous fort which is more than 1,500 years old and there are more than 150 temples and monuments inside. All these have tremendous tourist potential. But acute air pollution is affecting the flow of tourists to the fort,” it added.

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