The centre has given clearance to the Rajasthan government’s proposal to free some land from the Bansi Paharpur forest and Bandh Baretha wildlife sanctuary. Now, pink sandstone being used in the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya can be mined legally.
The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife headed by union environment minister Prakash Javadekar met a few days back and approved the state’s proposal to reorganize the boundary of the wildlife sanctuary.
In October last year, the Rajasthan mining department had applied to the union ministry of environment and forests seeking to denotify 5.56 sq km area in Bansi Paharpur. This would shift the boundary of the wildlife sanctuary southward to free three sandstone blocks from forest area for mining. Bansi Paharpur is famous for The stone which has a unique pink hue costs about Rs800 per cubic feet.
The state government sought technical evaluation of the mining area to be de-notified. In December, a team of scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun visited the area and undertook a survey. In their report, they said that the area under question had been extensively damaged and recommended that the sanctuary boundary be shifted southward.
The Bharatpur collector sent a proposal for reorganization of the sanctuary boundary to the Rajasthan State Wildlife Board. It was proposed that 198 sq km of new forest area would be added to the wildlife sanctuary to make up for the loss of forest land due to mining.
In February, the standing committee of the Rajasthan State Wildlife Board which is headed by chief minister Ashok Gehlot, cleared the proposal. It was then sent to the union ministry of environment and forests for final clearance by the National Board for Wildlife.
Officials say once the reorganization process is completed, the mines department will begin allotment of mines in the area. Despite the go-ahead to mining, the lease holder will still have to take permission from the forest department before undertaking mining in the area.
In September last year, the forest department had stopped the illegal mining in Bansi Paharpur from where stone was being sent to Ayodhya. This led to an uproar among Hindu organizations who attacked the state government, terming it anti-Hindu.
Officials in the mines department suggested that if the Bansi Paharpur area could be freed from forest area, the state could earn substantial revenue from the mining.
The mines in Bansi Paharpur have been operational since 1996. However, no mining has been allowed since 2016 after the government declared that the area was part of the Bandh Baretha wildlife sanctuary. The mines department had cancelled all mining leases for mines in the area but illegal mining was being carried out.
The pink sandstone found in Bansi Paharpur is very durable and has a beautiful lustre that increases when the stone is washed with water. The stone has been used in several historical buildings in the country including various temples, parliament house, Red Fort, Akshardham temple and Buland Darwaza.