Rajasthan government has cleared land for sandstone mining as it decided to give the approval to move Bandh Baretha wildlife sanctuary, located in Bharatpur, “southwestward”. By shifting the wildlife sanctuary, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot-headed Rajasthan wildlife board has paved the way for excluding as many as three forest blocks that have been “damaged irreparably” by “rampant mining”. The board has also said that 198 square kilometer km of the territorial forest will be added to Bandh Baretha wildlife sanctuary to make up for the loss of 7 square-kilometer of forest land due to the mining, as per the Indian Express report.
This boundary reorganization will allow the continuation of the mining of Bansi Paharpur sandstone. The mining department has been directed that following the completion of the reorganization process, the fresh application for the lease of mining. The pink sandstone is in demand for Ram temple in Ayodhya, the IE report says.
On paper, mining was banned after 2016. However, illegal operations continued resulting in the availability of Bansi Paharpur sandstone in the grey market. Last September, the Bharatpur administration seized as many as 25 trucks that were carrying pink sandstone in an illegal manner. After the raid, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has said that the “Congress government in Rajasthan” must realize that temple construction is the “nation’s work”.
Last October, the Rajasthan mining department had applied for denotifying the 5.56-square-kilometre in Bansi Paharpur on the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change’s Parivesh portal.
In November, the Rajasthan Forest Department wanted technical evolution of the controversial mining areas and had a discussion with the Central government. A group of scientists from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun surveyed the area in December. The survey report recommended the relocation of the sanctuary boundary. Banshi Pahadpur A and B, and Kot forest blocks have been shifted to the north-east and Mewla, Pahar Tali, Banswari, and Jamura Timkoli have been shifted in the south-west.