RTI exposes illegal mining around Gir
THE TIMES OF INDIA
KODINAR: Illegal miners seem to have got a complete free hand in digging near the Asiatic lions' last abode — Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. If data revealed under the RTI Act is any indication, the Supreme Court order banning mining, both legal and illegal in a 10km periphery around the sanctuary pending clearance of final eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) proposal, has been flagrantly violated.
Between April 2016 and February 2017, the geology and mining department had lodged 22 FIRs for illegal mining in the close vicinity of the sanctuary. "The estimated value of illegal mining in these 22 cases was pegged at Rs 11.29 crore. But this is just the tip of an iceberg as illegal mining is rampant around Gir Sanctuary and adversely affecting forest and wildlife,'' said Balu Socha, an environmental activist based in Kodinar, who had sought the information.
Earlier, the Centre had notified an area up to 17.9km from the boundary of the Mitiyala Wildlife Sanctuary, 16.3km from the boundary of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and up to 14.98km from the Paniya Wildlife Sanctuary. Now, the ESZ covers only 207 sq km of 114 villages in nine talukas covering three districts as against the original 3,328.8139 sq km extending to around 291 villages. Environmental activists alleged that government has given in to illegal miners who have high business stakes around the Gir Sanctuary.
Data also revealed that most illegal mining cases detected were near Ghantvad, Jamwala, Amodra, Surva, Ankolvadi, Arithiya and Bhiyal, which are all prime habitats of lions and other wildlife and fall under the ESZ. A senior forest department officer told TOI, "We have been regularly writing to the district administration in Gir-Somnath about illegal mining with data acquired using the GPS. Few months ago, we provided all details of such activities in Harmadiya, Ghantvad and Ebhalvad village around the Gir Sanctuary. We have no power to stop them but no such action was taken by the geology and mining department."