Aravallis, the most distinctive and ancient mountain chain of Peninsular India, marks the site of one of the oldest geological formations in the world. The range acts as a natural barrier against desertification and prevents the expansion of the Thar desert into India’s National Capital Region. Extensive mining on a disproportionate scale without taking remedial measures has resulted in irreversible changes in the ecosystem of the Aravallis. It is in respect to this background that mining was completely banned in the Aravallis falling in Faridabad, Gurgaon and Nuh districts in the State of Haryana according to the Hon’ble Supreme Court order dated 8.05.2009 in the M.C. Mehta Vs. Union of India case which states that “The Aravalli hill range has to be protected at any cost”.
Over a period of one year from March 2021 to March 2022, members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement visited and documented 16 sites of illegal stone and sand mining across the Aravallis in Gurgaon, Nuh and Faridabad. The process started when the Haryana government approached the Supreme Court in the beginning of 2021 to lift the ban on mining in the Aravallis. Members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group decided to see first-hand, how serious this threat is to the last remaining Aravalli hills in India’s National Capital Region and South Haryana. With trekkers who keep going into the Aravallis regularly, we first visited 4 different locations in Gurgaon and Faridabad Aravallis in the end of March and early April 2021: Pandala hills & area near Tikli village in Gurgaon and Damdama hills & Lake Bharadwaj area in Faridabad. Despite the Supreme Court ban, even in areas which are not easily accessible, we saw trails for tractors to illegally carry truckloads of sand and all kinds of stone.
ILLEGAL MINING IN PANDALA HILLS IN GURGAON
Pandala hills are an oasis near the new sectors of Gurgaon, close to Sohna road. As you approach Pandala, it becomes immediately apparent that these hills are bustling with wildlife. Members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement visited Pandala hills on 28th March 2021 early morning. We parked our cars near Rathee cafe and started climbing up the hill in front. Around us we found the bright red Palash tree signalling that summer is here. We also saw peacocks out for their morning flights, a fleeting hare, bee-eaters, thrushes, doves, koels up and about trying to catch that early worm. It was hard to imagine that just 10 minutes away is the dust-bowl that is Gurgaon city.
We came across a make-shift road cutting across the forest. On it, alongside the footprints of peacocks, we saw tractor tyre tracks. We followed the road and it became apparent that we were on an actively used trail. 20 minutes later and further inside the forest, we found ourselves staring at a large ditch in the ground. This was no natural formation. It was the site of a blasting activity. Here, far away from human eyes, we witnessed the illegal plunder of our natural resources. An entire hillside had been cut in half, its stones loaded onto a tractor bound for the crushing sites. Eventually, these stones would end up at the 1000s of construction sites that dot Gurgaon and Faridabad’s landscape.
Our guides, who are regular trekkers told us that there are 8 to 10 sites of illegal mining in Pandala hills and that while all of us were quarantined away during the lockdown in 2020, illegal mining picked up pace. The result was there in front of our eyes.
We never saw any forest official, police check-point or barricade – an indication that the government is not taking steps to protect the Aravallis. These hills have to fend for themselves and they are losing the battle.
ILLEGAL MINING NEAR TILKI VILLAGE IN GURGAON
It was shocking to see the devastation in this beautiful Aravalli area during our 10 km trek on 2nd April 2021. There were tractor tyres everywhere deep inside the jungle. Signs of illegal mining were evident seeing the big holes in the hills made by blasting using dynamite. The walkers who took us there said that every 2 months they visit this area, the landscape has changed and more hills have been levelled to the ground.
On our way out of the forest, we saw two tractors going in. These tractors had no number plates on them !
ILLEGAL MINING IN BHARADWAJ LAKE AREA IN FARIDABAD
Bharadwaj lake in Faridabad Aravallis is a product of mining activity that breached the local water aquifer. This pristine water body is known for its breath taking beauty and is a favourite area for trekkers and other outdoor enthusiasts. It’s emerald waters reflect the green of the surrounding hills.
It is nearly 5 km from any road head and this isolation has kept its beauty intact. However, it has also attracted the mining mafia. As we started walking inside the forest at about 12 noon on 28th March 2021, we saw a board saying that this area is protected under Sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (which means that no non-forest activity is allowed in this area). Close to this board, we spotted camels resting in the shade of the trees. These camels are used to carry away the illegally mined sand alongside the lake.
While the forest officials seem to stay away, locals who benefit from this illicit trade are always on the lookout, questioning outsiders who decide to venture into these parts. Our group was on the receiving end of such intimidation.
ILLEGAL MINING NEAR KOT VILLAGE IN FARIDABAD
In this 13 km trek deep inside the Aravallis in the Dhauj area on 4th April 2021, we saw a beautiful Egyptian vulture. This is a rare and endangered bird that lives in the Aravallis. In broad day light at 10 am, we saw tractors moving around collecting sand and stone. There is nobody to stop them as there are no police check posts or forest guards for miles.
ARAVALLI BACHAO TEAM TAKES POLICE OFFICIALS TO SHOW ILLEGAL MINING SITES
A complaint email that the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement wrote to the Haryana Government in April 2021 resulted in the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana forwarding the complaint to the Forest Department to take appropriate action. Subsequently, we received an email from the Badshahpur police station in Gurgaon stating that a compliant number 982-DS has been registered. Thereafter on 19th, 22nd and 26th of June 2021, members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement along with police officials from Badshahpur, Bhondsi and Sohna Sadar Police Stations respectively trekked for 6 to 10 klms to the sites of illegal mining in Pandala hills & near Tikli village in Gurgaon and Dhauj near Kot village in Faridabad. During the visits, members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement gave their written ‘Bayans’ / statements to the police officials. The officials from all the 3 police stations admitted to illegal mining taking place but said that the actual site of illegal mining did not fall fell under their jurisdiction.
Non-action of police officials on the pretext that the illegal mining sites do not fall within their jurisdiction is in violation of specific decision to ensure implementation of registration of FIR anywhere throughout the state which was taken in the Conference of Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police in the State of Haryana. The police officials were required to file a zero FIR against illegal mining which they failed to do.
Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement updated the Haryana Government authorities of the 3 site visits made with the police officials vide email dated 08.07.2021. This email was also again forwarded by the Deputy Chief Minister to the Haryana Forest Department officials for appropriate action on the same day. However, no action was taken by the Haryana Government to stop the illegal mining taking place.
Members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement made other site visits from July 2021 to March 2022 to document more illegal mining locations in Gurgaon and Nuh Aravallis.
MORE LOCATIONS OF ILLEGAL MINING IN GURGAON
Illegal Mining near Jalalapur – Sohna Village
Aravalli Bachao group members hiked in this location near Jalalpur – Sohna village, close to ITC Grand hotel in Manesar in the months of July and December 2021. We were shocked to see illegal mining being carried out in day time in many different areas in this location. We saw many tractors without number plates collecting all the illegally mined stones in different areas as we walked around.
A 30 year old villager at this location told us that he has been working here since 2007 everyday from 7 am till 2 pm. He gets paid INR 500 per day along with others from the village to break the hills.
Another villager told us, “We break 5 to 6 tractor trolleys of stone in one day. We receive Rupees 1500 to 2000 for each tractor trolley of the stones.”
Aravalli Hills near Kota Khandewla Village near Manesar Police Lines Complex
In the beginning of our hike in this area in early March 2022, we saw 2 men at the bottom of a sand hillock digging the sand out. At the top of the hillock uprooted dead trees could be seen. Then we saw a tractor trolley drive in to this location and we saw the men put the sand into the tractor. As our 12 klm hike came to an end, we saw another very big site of illegal sand mining.
As we hiked in this area, we saw men breaking the hills with their hammers, tractors moving around without number plates and severely degraded, broken hills.
Below is a tweet thread showing video evidence of illegal sand and stone mining in the Aravallis near Kota Khandewla village.
ILLEGAL MINING RAMPANT IN NUH DISTRICT
Aravalli Bachao team found illegal mining taking place near Dhulawat village close to Tauru police station in Nuh district. The locals told us that the police, local administration and forest officials are all aware of the illegal mining taking place here.
On 5th December 2021, members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement spent a day in the Mewat region in Haryana and discovered illegal stone and sand mining taking place in the Aravallis in 4 villages: Palla & Meoli villages in Nuh block and Bhagola & Hirwari Bamatheri villages in Ferozepur Jhirka block.
In Palla village situated a few klms away from the main Nuh town, the local village folks told the Aravalli Bachao group members that the Haryana Forest department guards visit this place once in a month or once in 2 months for a round. The forest rangers visit this area for inspection once in 6 months or once a year. This tweet thread shows videos taken in these different locations.
In February 2022, members of the Aravalli Bachao group went on a hike in the Aravalli hills near Bissar Akabarpur village in Tauru block in Nuh district. One of the locals told us that they use camels like the one seen in the video in the tweet thread below to carry stones they collect from the Aravalli hills. One such load is sold for Rs 250. In a day they make anything between Rs 500 to 1000 selling the illegally obtained stones.
16 LOCATIONS OF ILLEGAL MINING DOCUMENTED IN GURGAON, NUH AND FARIDABAD ARAVALLIS
|LOCATION OF ILLEGAL MINING||COORDINATES|
|Pandala hills near Gairatpur Bas village (Location 1 reached after walking up the hill in front of Rathee cafe)||28.332487, 76.984989|
|Pandala hills near Gairatpur Bas village (Location 2, Behind Rathee café and Jungle cafe)||28.404198, 77.173108|
|Aravalli area near Tikli village (Ansal Retreat area)||28.309623, 77.000607|
|Aravallis near Jalalpur Sohna village, close to ITC Grand Bharat Hotel in Manesar (Location 1) Location 2 in the same area||28.297888, 77.00233 28.300366, 77.002921|
|Aravallis near Kota Khandewla village near Manesar Police Lines Complex||28.326132, 76.973253|
|Sand mining location 1 near Manesar Police Lines Complex||28.33309, 76.974744|
|Sand mining location 2 near Manesar Police Lines Complex||28.326116, 76.973234|
|Sand mining location 3 ahead of Manesar Police Lines Complex on same side of the road going to Tauru||28.350935, 76.994209|
|Aravalli hills near Tauru police station, Tauru block||28.218806, 76.995616,|
|Aravalli hills near Bissar Akbarpur village, Tauru block||28.303038, 76.912626|
|Aravalli hills near Palla village in Nuh block||28.119195, 76.990408 28.119815, 76.978168|
|Aravalli hills near Meoli village in Nuh block||28.05214, 76.9608|
|Aravalli hills near Hirwari Bamatheri village in Ferozepur Jhirka block||27.774321, 77.013061|
|Aravalli hills near Bhagola village in Ferozepur Jhirka block||27.7733, 77.01250833|
|Aravallis near Bharadwaj lake area||28.447075, 77.25006389|
|Aravallis near Kot village in Dhauj area||28.32493, 77.17415278|
SATELLITE MAPPING OF THE ARAVALLI HILLS
Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement got satellite mapping done using geo tagged images taken in the 16 locations. To analyse the satellite images, Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) based spatio-temporal analysis of the Aravalli hills region specifically focusing on three districts – Gurugram, Faridabad and Nuh was conducted. For this study, satellite images were processed using GIS software to spatially identify and analyse mining areas in the study areas. The analysis has been carried out using 5.8 m resolution satellite data from the indigenous LISS IV multispectral sensor of IRS Resoursesat-2 satellite from Indian Space Research Organisation. A comparative analysis was generated between the years 2011 and 2022 to assess the expansion of mining in different areas of Aravallis. For this, the satellite images were processed through unsupervised classification which classifies the image pixels into various classes of different land use. The mining areas were extracted from the classified images for both years 2011 and 2022. The final representation of the analysis has been produced in the form of maps for the regions identified with major mining areas. The images and maps so prepared using GIS also confirms that illegal mining is happening in all the 16 locations.
RESPONSE OF GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES TO RTIs FILED FOR ILLEGAL MINING
Response to the RTI letters sent to the Haryana State Pollution Control Board, Forest Department Faridabad and the Mining Departments of Gurgaon and Nuh by the members of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement make it clear that no permissions for mining have been granted by these government departments after the SC ban on mining in 2009.
RTI responses from some of the police stations in Nuh district like Pingwan, Nagina, Ferozepur Zhirka mentioned the number of complaints filed against illegal mining from the year 2001 to 2021 which is clear evidence of mining continuing in Nuh despite the Supreme Court ban.
LEGAL CASE FILED IN THE NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL
On 12th of May 2022, we filed a legal case (Application No. 362/2022 Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement Versus Union of India & Ors.) in the National Green Tribunal for illegal stone and sand mining in a total of 16 locations in the Haryana Aravallis in Gurgaon, Nuh and Faridabad through the law firm Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). Our petition states that illegal mining is continuing in the Aravallis in Haryana despite the SC ban. In many areas, several Aravalli hills have been broken beyond repair and, in some places, completely razed to the ground.
Prayers in the legal petition are as follows:
- Government authorities must take steps to stop illegal stone and sand mining in the Aravallis.
- Strict action must be taken against defaulting officials.
- Native planting and restoration activities must be undertaken in the degraded mining areas.
- An independent Aravalli Protection Authority must be constituted for protection of the entire Aravalli range across the 4 states of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat as the state governments are failing to protect the Aravallis despite so many laws and court orders.
The National Green Tribunal Bench comprising Hon’ble Justice Mr. Arun Kumar Tyagi and Expert Member Mr. Afroz Ahmad via court order dated 23rd May 2022 in Application No. 362/2022 Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement Versus Union of India & Ors. has directed the government to file a verification report after visiting all the 16 locations of illegal mining. The next date of hearing for this case is on 24th August 2022. Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement has given a letter to the Joint Committee members constituted by NGT offering our assistance to show the 16 sites of illegal mining in Gurugram, Nuh and Faridabad Aravallis. Read more details about the NGT order in this blog below: