ILLEGAL QUARRYING DEVOURS MANASBAL HILLOCKS
Experts Warn Of Ecological Disaster
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Srinagar, May 1: Unabated illegal quarrying at famous tourist spot Manasbal in Ganderbal district is posing a grave threat to the local eco-system. Environmentalists warn of ecological damages in the tourist spot if immediate measures are not taken to stop the activity.
An on-the-spot assessment of quarrying sites in Manasbal shows how unscrupulous people are having a field day to devour these mountains which form essential part of Manasbal Lake’s eco-system.
Illegal quarrying has become an easy task in absence of any tangible intervention by authorities. A series of earth shaking blasts breaks serenity of the resort. As dust settles, parts of these mountains lie shattered in the shape of small stones. Subsequently, a beeline of trucks and labourers throng the spot, and within few hours these stones disappear. These loaded trucks later head towards various construction sites and stone crushers in an around Manasbal.
The locals said quarrying in Manasbal has been going on for past many decades. “But illegal quarrying flourished since 1990. Many a times, the concerned department imposed ban on quarrying but due to political pressure they had to surrender and allow vandalism of these mountains,” said a group of locals pointing towards a stretch of ravaged mountains.
“Manasbal is on verge of destruction. Besides illegal quarrying, extensive change of land use and encroachment has taken place near Nesbal housing lift station of PHE. Some unscrupulous people have flattened a major chunk of a hillock and converted it into orchards and some have even constructed illegal structures on lakeside,” they said.
Pertinently, two years ago, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during a visit to Manasbal expressed concerned over illegal quarrying and directed the concerned departments to close them immediately around the lake’s vicinity.
Officials of the Wullar-Manasbal Development Authority (WMDA) claimed to have done their bit to check illegal quarrying.
“We also acted against some people involved in illegal quarrying and got over 17 quarries closed in the lake’s vicinity,” Chief Executive Officer of WMDA, Nazir Ahmad Mir told Greater Kashmir.
Mir, who has been instrumental in conservation of Manasbal Lake since 2006, said he has taken up the issue of closure of other quarries in the area with the Geology and Mining department.
“Besides the Government, it is the duty of people to conserve Manasbal. We have been organizing awareness programmes to underscore the need for preservation of environment. Participation of people is must for development of Manasbal as one of the best tourist spots,” Mir added.
However, the Geology and Mining Department passed the buck on the WMDA. “Actually WMDA looks after overall conservation of Manasbal. We had asked the WMDA to ensure that no quarrying activity is undertaken in the tourist resort,” said Director Geology and Mining, Farooq Ahmad Khan.
“If quarrying is still going on in the area, I will look into the matter and take action against the offenders according to law,” Khan said.
Acting on complaints, police claimed to have taken action against some illegal quarries.
“We have registered FIRs against 17 illegal quarry owners and filed challan against them. We have spread a network of informers and intensified patrolling to check illegal quarrying,” said SHO Safapora, Raies Hassan.
Environmentalists expressed serious concern over unabated quarrying on mountains in Manasbal. “Mountains are priceless. We can construct sky-touching buildings and bridges but not mountains. We have to understand that mountains are imperative part of our fragile eco-system. Any disturbances in these can be catastrophic,” said prominent geologist Haji Abdul Majeed Butt.
Experts maintain that as per the Mines Act 1952, a lessee is required to make benches which shall be sloped at the angle less than 60 degree and height of the bench shall not exceed six meters.
“Ironically, in Manasbal and adjoining Saderkote areas, mining is not only done illegally but in a haphazard manner. The problem is compounded by use of heavy blasting material which can result in soil erosion and landslides,” Butt added.
Dr Shakil A Romshoo, Head Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Kashmir, maintained that unabated illegal quarrying in Manasbal will have catastrophic impacts on the ecology of Manasbal Lake.
Romshoo underscored the need for undertaking environmental impact assessment by the concerned government agencies before any quarrying activity is allowed in the Valley.
“If quarrying is allowed to go unabated, the natural system in these areas may respond through cascading impacts like lowering of water table, land and cave collapse and creation of sinkholes. Blast-induced vibrations and shock waves can cause cave roofs to crack or collapse, as was sometime back witnessed in Mattan area of South Kashmir,” he added.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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