Illegal mining in sanctuary

Written by Sahim Salim | New Delhi | Published:March 16, 2010 12:34 am

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The police have found illegal mining and tree-felling in the Capital’s only protected sanctuary,the Asola Bhatti Sanctuary.

The Southeast district police last week raided a plot in Gupta Colony,Sangam Vihar,to recover Badarpur stones,mined illegally from the nearby Aravalli Hills,police sources said. Several labourers working with the illegally stored stones fled at the sight of the police team,according to a source.

A truck driver,identified as one Daler Singh,was later arrested.

The raid and the subsequent FIR was lodged on March 9,police officials said.

The raid came after several complaints to Sangam Vihar police from forest department officials (see box) in the last couple of years about illegal mining and tree-felling in the protected sanctuary. The complaints allegedly did not yield any response.

Quarrying has been banned on the Supreme Court’s orders in the Aravalli range in neighbouring Gurgaon and Faridabad districts to protect the ecologically fragile hills.

On March 9,a social worker,Rishipal Badhana,sent a written complaint to Assistant Commissioner of Police (Ambedkar Nagar) Mahipal Singh,alleging that Station House Officer of Sangam Vihar,Satpal,allowed illegal operations inside the sanctuary.

On ACP Singh’s instructions,Inspector Rajkumar Shah from Ambedkar Nagar police station conducted the raid.

Post-raid,a case under Mines and Minerals Act was registered the same day (Newsline has a copy of the FIR).

According to a highly placed source,subsequent investigations have found a well-networked operation in place.

Cross-border activity

A senior investigating officer said the initial probe found illegal mining of Badarpur stone in Haryana’s Anangpur area,just next to the sanctuary,and transported through Asola Sanctuary to Gupta Colony in Sangam Vihar.

The investigating officer said: “The mining is done about 10 feet from the sanctuary walls,in Anangpur. The Badarpur stone is then loaded on camels,as vehicles like tractors and tempos are not allowed inside the sanctuary,and transported to Delhi.

“The miners have broken the sanctuary’s boundary wall on the Sangam Vihar side — here,the illegally mined stones are loaded on trucks and tractors and taken to Gupta Colony for storage.”

They are transported and sold to builders from there,the investigating officer added.

Questioning of the arrested truck driver and further probe into the mining racket have revealed that trees were cut and Badarpur stones were mined and transported in a similar fashion from within Asola Sanctuary.

Forest guards ‘helpless’

Forest officials said operators now use unmanned camels to transport the quarried stones through the sanctuary after a few persons manning the animals were caught in the recent past. The arrested persons were let off by court with penalty,officials said.

According to the investigating officer,while several camels have been impounded,the MCD did not take in the animals.

A “helpless” senior forest official at Asola Sanctuary said: “We have 12 guards posted in the whole sanctuary,while we need at least 159. We control what we can but the rest is a law and order problem and we have written to the police on several occasions but no action has been forthcoming till date.”

Complaints to cops

* On March 4,2008,then ranger in Asola Sanctuary,Ajay Sharma,wrote to Sangam Vihar police about illegal activities inside the sanctuary

* On March 12,2009,ranger Dharam Singh wrote that some residents of Anangpur,Haryana,were cutting trees inside the sanctuary and transporting them on camels

* On March 25,2009,ranger Singh wrote again,saying he suspected illegal traders of wood attacked a security guard inside the sanctuary for complaining against them

(Newsline has copies)

Mining Badarpur stone

* Extra-deep mining of Badarpur stone has reduced the water table in nearby areas,including Asola Sanctuary

* On May 8,2009,the Supreme Court ordered suspension of all mining activities — both quarrying of building materials known as ‘minor’ mining,and traditional minerals,known as ‘major’ mining — in the 448-sq km,or 1,500 hectares,of Aravalli range in Faridabad,Gurgaon and Mewat districts of Haryana

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