Gets HC to take notice of the menace
Danish Raza | April 12, 2010
Poison was running in the veins of people in Madhya Pradesh. Air was becoming contaminated. Water was giving way to filth. Thanks to regular mining, respiratory diseases including TB and asthma had become integral part of the lives of those living in the state. Ajay Dubey, a social activist in Bhopal, could not take it anymore. He used the Right To Information Act to tackle the threat his state was facing. Dubey filed RTI application in the department of mining to know the number of illegal mines in the state. “Bhopal gas tragedy was the only issue people used to focus in the state. I believe illegal mining has the potential to become an environmental hazard,” says 39 year old Dubey.
On March 12, 2007, he filed an RTI application in the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) seeking the number of operational mines in the state, mines operating without approval of MPPCB and the action taken by the Board against the operators of such mines. As anticipated by Dubey, almost half of the 526 mines (of size above five hectares) were operating without the approval of the Board. MPPCB admitted that it could not confirm the number of mines which equal to or less than five hectares, as the regional offices were yet to provide the data on the same.
The Board also expressed its helplessness in enforcing the environmental norms on mining activity because of frequent changes in guidelines by the central government.
On approaching regional offices, Dubey discovered that about nine hundred small mines were active with the approval of the pollution body.
Armed with this information, Dubey filed a PIL in February 2008 in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, seeking closure of illegal mines. On July 2, 2008, the Court ordered the closure of all mineral mines that did not have the consent from the State Pollution Control Board. The court also allowed the mines with leased land of area less than five hectare to obtain no-objection certificate from MPPCB if they wanted to prevent their closure.
“From July to December 2008, more than 2700 mines obtained MPPCB approval. Some of them were given environmental clearance on the day they filed the application was made, says Dubey.
According to him, there were continuous threats to his life from the mania during the struggle. “They used to phone me. At other times, their people met me at the PIO office,” says he.
The founder Prayatna, an NGO working for environmental causes, believes that RTI made things easier for him. “We got smooth leads with the Act,” says he.
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