HYDERABAD: A Sindh High Court bench of Hyderabad circuit ordered the Mithi deputy commissioner (DC) to clear the Karoonjhar Hills of all encroachers within 24 hours of their lease cancellations on Wednesday.
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After passing the ruling, the division bench of Justices Mohammad Shafi Siddiqui and Arshad Hussain Khan scheduled Shankar Meghwar’s petition for Thursday.
The petitioner asked the court to postpone the director general of mines and minerals department’s July 22 auction notification and “declare the Karoonjhar mountains as historical, traditional, world cultural heritage and tourist point of Sindh”.
The bench heard amicus curiae M/S Ishrat Lohar’s report on the Karoonjhar case of 2021. The court noted Karoonjhar Hills had hundreds of temples and appeared centuries old.
The United Nations declared it a tentative World Heritage site, and the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994 declared the Karoonjhar Hills, 19 sq kms, a World Heritage.
Since many mining leases/licenses have been withdrawn, it appears miners and mineral department are causing havoc and not caring for this World Heritage Site. It’s one of the rare sites in the world with hundreds of surviving temples, some of which have been damaged by time or private individuals like mines and mining officials, the directive stated.
The court noted that Rabel Sarwar, assistant director of the mines & mineral department, stated that “all mining leases issued at Karoonjhar Hills or in vicinity of Karoonjhar Hills, have been cancelled and last auction notices have been withdrawn as impugned in petition.” However, some licensees/lessees were still there.
We therefore think it necessary to expel these encroachers/occupants occupying World Heritage Site 19 sq km Karoonjhar Hills for excavation and clean the site. The judgement stated that the Deputy Commissioner Tharparkar at Mithi will work with law enforcement to prevent them from seizing Karoonjhar Hills, as identified above and disclosed in petition document.
The court ordered the Mithi DC to clear site within 24 hours of Wednesday and appear in person with report. “No excuses will be tolerated in case Hill is not cleared from those encroachers/occupants who are bent upon to demolish this World Heritage structure for their commercial gain,” the decree added.
In a 2021 petition, the respondents didn’t appear before the court, but the judge said they might attend by themselves or with counsel on the next occasion since no further delay would be given.