Jammu and Kashmir Government has ordered immediate banning of mining activities at Athwajan and Pantha Chowk quarries in the city outskirts on National Highway, terming stone extraction at these sites as 'ecologically dangerous and harmful for the local populace'.
However, the quarry holders and workers, who are on a sit in protest from last three days against the order, blame that the government directive is going to affect the livelihood of thousands of people and government does not have any alternative plan for the affected people.
The order issued in this regard by the Commissioner Secretary, Industries and Commerce, reads that "…..whereas stone quarries situated at Athawajan and Pantha Chowk area of Srinagar are mined out by the quarry holders, these stone quarries are situated on the road side which not only present bad face before every person travelling on Srinagar-Jammu Highway but also has adverse impact on the ecology and environment of the area due to reckless mining."
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Commissioner Secretary Industries and Commerce, Shailendra Kumar stated that the mining at Athwajan and Pantha Chowk has been banned due to "over extraction of stones at these sites which have made the area vulnerable and further extraction could be dangerous for the local populace living in the vicinity."
He said that decision has been taken after the committee constituted to examine the area submitted its report. "However keeping in view the requirement of stones for construction purposes in Srinagar, government would allow mining in Zewan area to be continued," he added.
The order issued by Kumar elaborates that Director Geology and Mining vide its order No. 1500/MCC/DGM/Pantha Chowk/1317022 dated 24-5-2016 constituted a committee to suggest utilization of mined out land for public purpose and exploring the working of quarries on scientific lines at Athwajan and Pantha Chowk of Srinagar
"Now since the new rules in the name and title, "The Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016" notified vide SRO-105 dated 31.3.2016 have come into existence and no person shall be granted any minor mineral concession in any area under these rules unless a mining plan approved under these rules is submitted and approved by the government," the order copy reads, adding, "at the present scenario of extraction of stones in the area does not permit to prepare a suitable mining plan and the measures for safeguarding the fragile ecology and environment in the area."
"Moreover, at the quarry sites both at Athwajan and Pantha Chowk the whole rock mass is highly jointed and fractured, the slopes are more than 85 degree or even at places near verticals. It has also been observed that alarming cutting height of 20 to 100 degree above ground level has made this quarry belt highly dangerous because of the slope and height crossing the permissible limits."
Reacting to the government order has, quarry holders and workers say that the move has rendered thousands of people associated with the mining in the area jobless.
"More than 300 quarry holders have become jobless while thousands workers have been snatched of their livelihood by the government," said Mushtaq Ahmad, a quarry holder, adding that government should roll back its ban order.