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Opinion

Uttarakhand Seeks Approval for Riverbed Mining in Forest Area

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The Uttarakhand Forestry Development Corporation (UFDC) has requested the clearing of a 628.8 hectare (ha) forest area for the renewal of sand and boulder extraction on the state’s Song and Jakhan rivers in Dehradun district .

In 2009, the union’s environment ministry had granted forest clearance to UFDC to exploit more than 1,325 ha of forest land in Dehradun district for ten years, including the area that is proposed for the exploitation of new. According to the UFDC proposal on the Environment Ministry’s Parivesh website, during the monsoon, riverbed material was collected in rivers, causing flooding. By extracting this material from the river bed, flooding can be avoided.

Also read: Elephant dies after being electrocuted in Uttarakhand

However, environmental experts said that without a resupply and carrying capacity study, continued mining for decades could lead to erosion, degradation of the ecology, change in the course of the river, etc. “There is no resupply study for these rivers where mining has been done for decades. There is also no district prospecting or a mining plan. The Uttarakhand government keeps saying that mining should be done to remove excess material from river beds and prevent flooding, but where does the study show that mining can prevent flooding? It is particularly concerning because it is forest land and there is very little monitoring whether mining is carried out only in the area approved for mining and at the aforementioned depth, ”said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. , an advocacy organization based in Delhi.

The Forestry Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment and the National Wildlife Board had previously sought cumulative impact assessment studies of the impact on the rivers of Uttarakhand. “The state government should carry out a study to determine the impact of upstream and downstream mining. The study will come out with clear recommendations on the usefulness of said mining to maintain the natural flow of the river and the health of the adjacent forests. It should cover the impact of mining in the area during the last ten years. The study can correlate satellite images of the last ten years ”, FAC had observed in April. He added that the government should also quantify the amount of sand and pebbles that can be extracted annually.

Uttarakhand’s application will be considered by the Forestry Advisory Committee on Tuesday. The FAC will also consider the Ujh Multipurpose Hydel project in the Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, which involves the submergence of 680 ha of forest land and 3669.9 ha of non-forest land. According to the Jammu and Kashmir State Energy Development Corporation, the project was planned to utilize the water resource potential of Ujh, a tributary of Ravi. The project has been declared a national project as it allows India to use its part of the Indus River system.

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