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Above: An aerial view of Chittorgarh city. The NGT ban on mining aims to improve the air quality/Photo: chittorgarh.com

The green court has asked the Rajasthan Pollution Control Board to stop all activity within the municipal limits of Chittorgarh city and within 10 km of the Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary

The National Green Tribunal has directed the Rajasthan Pollution Control Board, the director of the state’s mining department, and the collector of Chittorgarh to immediately stop all mining activity carried on within the municipal limits of Chittorgarh city as well as within 10 km of Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary or within the eco-sensitive zone of the sanctuary.

The tribunal was hearing an application filed in 2017 by a resident, Pratap Bhanu Singh Shekhawat, who in his petition had raised the issue of massive air pollution which posed a threat to the lives of the people living in the area.

Shekhawat highlighted in his application that living in Chittorgarh city was becoming extremely difficult due to air pollution, the major cause of which was 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. 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.

The state pollution control board informed the tribunal that a total of 587 quarries functioned in the area of which only 371 had valid licences. Further, these mining operations were being carried out close to the Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary which was affecting its flora and fauna as well.

Following Shekhawat’s petition, the NGT issued notices to the state pollution control board and various government agencies. Since then, Shekhawat has been pressing on the need for taking immediate steps to address the problem of increasing pollution levels, which has exposed the residents of Chittorgarh city to health risks.

The tribunal, taking into consideration the seriousness of the issue, had directed the Rajasthan government to take immediate steps to redress the grievance of the applicant. Thereafter, the Chittorgarh Pathar Utpadak Sewa Samiti and some companies were also impleaded as a party. The tribunal had also directed the surveyor general, Survey of India, Dehradun, to assist in this matter by sending a report.

Naveen Tomar, additional surveyor general, Survey of India, was also present before the NGT bench to depute a team of officials to inspect the site, particularly with regard to mining operations within the municipal limits of the city, at the foothills of the fort and close to the sanctuary. Tomar’s office was instructed to file a detailed report on mining, both current and past, in the specified areas before the Tribunal at the earliest. The matter has been listed for hearing on July 1.

—Shaheen Parween

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