To save its forestry department from having to spend too much time, resources and effort fighting illegal mining in the Chambal National Wildlife Refuge, the government of Madhya Pradesh has offered to open up 292 hectares for mining in five sections of the Chambal River and its tributary Parvati. Sand mining in the reserve has been prohibited since 2006.
In a proposal submitted in December 2021 to the Union Ministry for the Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF-CC), the state said that opening the five sites would minimize conflict with illegal miners, generate local support and generate royalty income. a quarter of them can be used to strengthen protection measures.
In addition, the proposal was intended to make contractors of future legal quarries responsible for checking for illegal mining on adjacent lands of the reserve four times their leased space, otherwise their lease would be terminated. The designation of 292 hectares for mining would put 1,168 hectares under the protection of miners.
According to the records, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department began work on the proposal on July 13, 2021, a day before the transfer of the then NCS Superintendent who made headlines for confiscating 78 illegal mining vehicles and faced numerous attacks allegedly from mining mafia during her three-month deadline.
Records show that the denotation proposal was passed through the office of Shashi Malik, then Additional Chief Forest Guard (Gwalior). Asked if the move was prompted by an escalating conflict with the mining mafia, Malik said: “I didn’t ask for a proposal or make any comments about it. I can’t comment further.”
“This is a political decision of the government. Opening the legal window to meet local requirements should minimize the pressure of illegal mining,” said Jasbir Singh Chauhan, chief wildlife ranger in Madhya Pradesh. indian express.
The MoEF-CC National Council for Wildlife Conservation (SC-NBWL) Standing Committee considered the proposal at its last two meetings on March 25 and May 30. The committee set up by SC-NBWL to study the proposal visited Chambal last week. . “We have reviewed the areas and will submit our report before the next SC-NBWL meeting,” said NBWL member H.S. Singh.
The Chambal National Wildlife Refuge (NCS), spread across three states, spans a total length of 435 km of the Chambal River and its tributary Parvati in Madhya Pradesh. An important bird habitat, the NCS is home to endangered gharials, river dolphins, mugger crocodiles, and several rare turtle species.
Strict hours required
The state government’s proposal is a tacit admission of its inability to curb or stop illegal mining. Even so, protecting Chambal’s wild habitat will require effective law enforcement.
In its “justification” for the proposal, the government of Madhya Pradesh noted that more than 4,000 local residents are directly dependent on various NCS resources. They farm along the river, extract river water for irrigation, engage in subsistence and commercial fishing, and quarry sand mining—activities that can destroy the natural nesting sites of gharials, muggers, and turtles.
“Due to the absence of any legal quarries in Chambal, since 2006, illegal sand mining has continued in the area of the reserve,” the proposal says. Under the proposal, three sand pits allowed in 1999 were closed by order of the Gwalior Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 2006.
As “illegal mining has become a major commercial activity” in the area, the proposal stressed that upholding the people’s right to nistar – preferential access to natural resources for subsistence – while preserving biodiversity is “the responsibility of the government” in accordance with the Center’s policy.
Therefore, the Government of Madhya Pradesh proposed to designate five sites (see diagram) which it claimed had already been disturbed by mining and were no longer used for mating, breeding or bathing by gharials, muggers, dolphins, turtles or any migratory bird species.
To crack down on illegal mining, the state has proposed stricter controls on sand-carrying vehicles by marking them with registration numbers, bar-coding royalty receipts with time and destination, and developing a mobile app for on-site verification.
Not everyone is convinced. “Such measures have not stopped the rampant illegal mining in Chambal due to lax enforcement. Our experience in the area is that every legal mine allows a dozen illegals nearby to manipulate papers and move their cargo as legal material,” said environmental biologist Dr. Dharmendra Handal.