Don’t encourage setting up of Bitumen based hot & wet mix plants
UNDER the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), India is signatory to an agreement also known as Paris agreement. India has three quantitative climate change goals as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). These goals are listed as under:
Reduction in the emissions intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level
Achieving about 40 % cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030
Creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
Around 190 countries are party to the Paris agreement which was signed on 4th November 2016 at Le Bourget Paris. The United States had earlier withdrawn from the agreement in 2020 but after Joe Biden was elected US President, it again joined back officially on 19th February 2021. As per the official data provided by World Resources Institute (WRI), India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions accounted for 6.5 % of total global emissions in 2014.This made US the fourth-largest carbon emitter after China, United States and the European Union (EU). To make significant reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 , India needs to work a lot. The state and UT Governments too have an important role in this regard so that international commitments are fulfilled.
New Rules for Stone Crushers
The J&K Government in February this year came up with a new set of rules known as Jammu & Kashmir Stone crushers / Hot & Wet Mixing Plants Regulation Rules 2021. These rules are formulated under the section 15 and section 23 C of Mines and Minerals ( Development and Regulation) Act 1957. The new rules say that a stone crushing unit or a hot or wet-mix plant is not a mining unit but a processor of minerals obtained from a source with a valid mineral concession. Such units shall be regulated by laws, rules and other provisions applicable to industrial units.
Instead of promoting industrial units with very less carbon emissions, the Government has given a free hand to pollution causing industries. Rule 3 (2) says that no permission or license is needed to set up new stone crushing factories and hot / wet mix plants in J&K . The Rule 3 (2) reads as :
“ No Permission or license would be needed by a stone crusher/ hot and wet mixing plant from the mining department except where it also engages in mining , which activity shall be regulated by laws and rules applicable to mining”
Setting Up New Hot & Wet Mix Plants
On one hand, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkare is planning to make all the highways concrete in the upcoming years. One wonders as to why the J & K Government is facilitating and encouraging setting up of more Hot and Wet-mix plants ? The demand for Bitumen will be very less in the years to come as more and more concrete roads would be set up across J&K. One fails to understand why we need more bitumen based hot and wet mix plants in J&K ?
This is a visionless policy that will have serious environmental implications in the future. More and more bitumen based plants will lead to increased carbon emissions in J&K in the years to come plus this will ultimately destroy the streams and rivers of J&K including the aquatic life in it. Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari is the biggest proponent of concrete roads, but this seems to have no takers in J&K where bitumen roads get damaged every year after snowfall. The Government must instead put a moratorium of setting up new hot and wet-mix plants in J&K. It seems that builders and road developers from outside J&K are being invited to set up these pollution causing industries across J&K and Govt is facilitating all this and bypassing the international commitments made in this regard.
J&K Government on March 13th 2016 had issued a notification vide SRO 105 wherein exhaustive regulations were made to regulate the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act) of 1957. After this, Minor Minerals Exploitation and Processing Rules were formulated in 2017. Both of them have been repealed now. Under SRO 105 of 2016, there was a provision of setting up State and District Minerals Foundation as per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Mining, Government of India. The Foundation acts like a trust set up as a non-profit body, in those districts affected by the mining works. The foundation will work for the interest and benefit of persons and areas affected by mining related operations. It is funded through the contributions from miners. There is a provision of setting up of District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) in all districts of India affected by mining related operations.
Unfortunately, the new rules do not throw any light on all this. Rule 73 of 2016 rules had a provision of creating a fund known as the Mines and Minerals Development, Restoration and Rehabilitation Fund (MMDRRF). This fund was to be established under public account in the state with the objectives of funding the restoration or rehabilitation works in the sites affected by mining operations and provision of common facilities for the benefit of the community in and around areas where mining activities are undertaken and much more. Nobody knows what happened to this fund and the new rules are also mum on this.
Why Deny Mining Rights to PRIs ?
Administrative Council (AC), that met in Srinagar on July 18th last year under the chairmanship of the then Lieutenant Governor, G C Murmu, approved the amendment of J&K Minor Mineral Concession, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016. Through that amendment, the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI’s) were supposed to get mining permits on land up to 1 hectare (20 kanals), till 30th September, 2021. It also exempted PRIs from payment of advance royalty to the Geology and Mining Department before commencing mining. The decision was aimed at empowering PRIs to raise funds through mining surpluses and address shortage of key construction material in the local market, besides keeping a check on their prices. The new rules do not discuss the role of PRIs but instead directs stone crushing and hot and wet-mix plant owners to obtain material from valid Concessionaires ? Pertinently, these concessionaires have been giving contracts to extract sand and gravel from our rivers and streams which has had a tremendous impact on the water ecosystem and aquatic life especially impacting Trout fish.
On the other hand, the Govt claims to be giving more rights to Panchayats in J&K ? Some months back, Chairman Block Development Council (BDC) Bufliaz in Poonch Shafiq Mir raised this issue with Advisor to Governor Farooq Khan during a meeting at Surankote as the mining contract on a local river was given to some firm bypassing local Panchayats. Advisor assured to intervene but nothing has happened.
The Government of Jammu & Kashmir , Himachal Pradesh , Uttarakhand or even Ladakh need to be cautious and adopt stringent climate action policies in view of fragile climatic conditions and mountain ecosystem. The Government of Jammu & Kashmir instead of respecting India’s commitments on climate change is facilitating the creation of more pollution causing industrial units. This needs to stop. By giving mining contracts in J&K to big contactors and concessionaires, Govt’s own commitment towards strengthening Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) gets punctured. J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC) earlier known as J&K Pollution Control Board (PCB) has a great role to play in this regard but unfortunately the newly constituted PCC hardly has any member from Kashmir valley. Government needs to look into this aspect as well.
- Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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