There are 141 stone crushers in Uttarakhand, including 40 in Haridwar. On April 15, 2015, NGT ordered to stop ‘illegal, unauthorized, unscientific mining’ in Haridwar but illegal mining still continues there.
The river Ganga which is considered to be the holiest and purest river for Hindus is now under the threat from its own people. The disposition of waste in the river, illegal mining at the riverbank, deforestation near riverbeds, and extension of temples, ashrams and homes into the river is costing the health of river which is degrading.
Even after National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered on April 15, 2015, to stop the “illegal, unauthorised, unscientific mining” in Haridwar “without taking environmental clearance” the illegal work is still carrying on in Haridwar. The NGT bench, headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, took the decision on a plea filed by an NGO, Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE).
Illegal mining is uncontrolled in villages like Bishanpur, Goghpur, Sajjanpur Pilli, and Kandabhagamal because of which the Ganga is being adversely affected. It is also posing a threat to the burial ground and the Bal Kumari temple, where fair holds annually. As per 2012 data, there were 141 stone crushers in Uttarakhand and out of that 40 such units were in Haridwar alone.
According to some locals “The excavators dig deep anywhere on the river. During night, the excavators even collect material from the river banks which later trigger erosion”. Haridwar administration has given permission (pattas) to around 60 contractors for collecting minerals; currently, seven are operational while others are yet to meet the agreement. As per rules, the contractors can collect material from the course of the river without affecting it. There is no way to check whether they are following the rules or not. This event has also affected the crop growth in neighbouring villages, which ‘is stunted growth due to the presence of dust particles in the air. The cattle also refuse to eat the grain barn due to the presence of dust”.
The issue was first addressed by Swami Nigamanand of Matri Sadan in 1998 that went on Satyagraha in Kumbha Mela. Matri Sadan was formed in 1997 by around ten seers who were concern about the Ganga issue. The demand was to ban stone crushers and sand mining activities in the notified mela area. At the time, five Ghats were undermining and after pressure the district administration had to stop mining in three ghats: Chandi, Dhobi and Jagatipur, but continued in rest two ghats: Misaarpur and Ajeetpur. As mining company got stay order from state government, thus mining proceeded as usual.
On February 19, 2011, again, Swami Nigamanand began an indefinite fast against the stay order by Uttarakhand High Court to allow quarrying by Himalaya Stone Crusher Limited. On his 68th day (April 27) of fast he was forcibly admitted to District Hospital by the local administration and on April 30 he was injected with organophosphate poison by an unknown nurse which slipped him into coma. Gyanesh Kumar Agarwal, owner of Himalaya Stone Crusher Ltd. had support from then ruling party Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Sangh Parivar. He was also the chief guest for July 2010 at the annual Guru Dakshina programme of the RSS’ Haridwar branch. His father has been an RSS office-bearer in the Haldwani area. On June 13, 2011, Swami Nigamanand died on the 115th day of his fast.
Swami Shivanand of Matri Sadan went on fast from March 31, 2015 to April 21, 2015, with the same motive shared by Swami Nigamanand. As illegal mining started again after three days of NGT ordered to stop illegal mining, Swami Shivanand restarted the fast. The consistent digging and mining lower the river bed and water level in the surrounding villages. It also causes air pollution and soil erosion in nearby areas.
But they are very few people exist who understands that environment is one of the foremost priority for sustenance. Imbalance in ecology cause floods which we have witnessed in 2013 in Kedarnath valley. On the upstream, dams are built like Tehri dam and in downstream there is an intrusion into river Ganga. So where are we leading our present and future to?