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J&K Govt targets Mining near Vaishno Devi shrine gets nod.

In National on November 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm

NEW DELHI: The Jammu and Kashmir government’s proposal for mining 12,40,000 tonne per annum of high-grade magnesium deposit in land owned by the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board near the pilgrimage site, and setting up of a 30,000-tonne per annum magnesium plant have got the Centre’s nod.

The go-ahead came after the state government advocated a proposal to de-notify the 31.40sq kmTrikuta wildlife sanctuary in the vicinity of the project site, and the Union environment ministry ratified it in April.

The existence of the wildlife sanctuary nearby had made it mandatory for the state to approach the National Wildlife Board’s standing committee seeking clearance for mining. Supreme Court orders require that all projects falling within a 10-km radius of any wildlife sanctuary or national park be cleared by the standing committee of the PM-chaired NWB.

In a two-pronged move, the state government first asked for the sanctuary to be de-notified in April. The NWB’s standing committee permitted the de-notification of the sanctuary with a rider: the state government should notify twice the area elsewhere as a sanctuary. Then, in October the state government moved another proposal to set up mining operations near the delisted sanctuary.

Minutes of the April meeting of the standing committee record that the state board for wildlife and the state’s chief wildlife warden had recommended the proposal.

However, some non-official members on the standing committee objected to it. Prerna Singh Bindra, one such member, said: “This de-notification sets a bad precedent.”

The panel cleared the project during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure. The project was part of several dozen clearances for using wildlife sanctuaries and national parks for ventures that got the nod in April despite non-official members’ stiff resistance to them.

In October, with Ramesh’s successor Jayanthi Natarajan in the saddle, the state government put forth another proposal before the standing panel. This time around, it proposed to run mining operations at a site near the wildlife sanctuary that had got the clearance to de-notify in April.

Minutes of the October meeting reveal that the proposal was to mine in non-forest private land under the ownership of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. Mining was proposed for only 17.92 ha out of a total mine lease area of 485.30 ha of private land. The lease agreement is between the shrine board and the Jammu and Kashmir Mineral Development Corporation. The proposal was cleared by the state wildlife board and the state’s chief wildlife warden, and did not require any felling of trees. J&K chief wildlife warden said at the meeting that the state government had already started the process of identification of areas to be notified as new sanctuary in lieu of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary.

Having already agreed to de-notify Trikuta in April, the standing panel had little option but to clear the mining operations as it can only scrutinize projects that impact demarcated wildlife zones. Mining near Vaishno Devi shrine gets nod – The Times of India.

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