SHC upholds mineral exploitation from Karoonjhar Hills

SHC upholds mineral exploitation from Karoonjhar Hills

HYDERABAD: On Tuesday, the Sindh High Court halted the mines and minerals development department from cutting or extracting minerals from the hills in Nagarparkar, in response to the provincial government’s controversial decision to solicit bids for the extraction of granite from the majestic Karoonjhar Hills.

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The Hyderabad circuit bench of Justices Khadim Hussain Tunio and Arbab Ali Hakro issued the restraining order until August 15 in response to a public interest petition filed by Advocate Shankar Lal Meghwar, a resident of Tharparkar. The provincial government had claimed to have cancelled the tender notice.

Advocate Meghwar cited as respondents the secretary for mines and minerals development department, the secretary for forest and wildlife, the director general of the directorate of mines and minerals development Karachi, the administration of the Tharparkar district, and police officials.

The petitioner submitted to the court the public auction notice issued by the relevant department on July 27, while an assistant director of the department submitted copies of two cancellation notices dated July 22 and 23.

On August 4, the government of Sindh was scheduled to auction off marble, gravel, sand, and limestone extraction.

He reported that the province-wide auction notice for small scale mining permits for lake salt, china clay, marble, gravel, sand, and limestone had been published. The auction was originally scheduled for August 1, but it was rescheduled for August 4, and the public notice was published on July 29.

He stated that the auction had been cancelled. This was entered into evidence and a copy was provided to the petitioner for review, while Additional Advocate General of Sindh Allah Bachayo Soomro requested time to submit responses on behalf of the respondents.

Until August 15, the court enjoined the defendants from cutting Karoonjhar Hills or removing any minerals from the mountains.

The petitioner claimed he was aggrieved by the 22 July auction notice issued by the respondent DG, who had solicited bids for the extraction of granite.

He described the DG’s action as illegal and as a defiance of earlier court orders. The Karoonjhar Hills were a part of Tharparkar’s ancient history in the Rann of Kuchh. The herbage and vegetation that flourished on the mountains were utilised for medicinal and livestock purposes. He stated that they provided fauna with shelter and helped dispose of Nagarparkar’s sewage.

After precipitation on the mountains, the region’s groundwater was replenished and served as the sole source of potable water and agricultural water, he said.

He claimed that the respondents issued the auction notice without contemplating the mountains’ historical significance. According to him, the civil judge and judicial magistrate of Nagarparkar issued an order on December 28, 2021, prohibiting illicit mountain mining and cutting.

He stated that on November 13, 2019, the Supreme Court issued an order suspending mining operations in the highlands. In response to a separate petition, the court issued an order on January 7, 2021, directing the respondents to form a committee to declare the Karoonjhar Hills as heritage and ancient property, he explained.

The committee was created, but it failed to fulfil its mandate. As a result, illegal cutting and mining continued to such an extent that a new auction notice was issued, compelling the locals to take matters into their own hands by launching the ‘Save Karoonjhar’ campaign. He petitioned the court to suspend the July 22 auction notification.

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