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“ GEOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF ENVIROMENTAL DEGRADATION DUE TO

MINING ACTIVITY IN PARTS OF SIRMOUR DISTRICT, HIMACHAL


PRADESH, INDIA”

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
It includes the summary of the observations and conclusions drawn from various
laboratories and field investigations in the study area. In the present investigation
author has attempted to provide a complete assessment of the prevailing
environmental problems in the mining area which falls in parts of the Sirmaur
district. The area provides a pertinent case history related to environmental
problems related to limestone and baytes mining activity. Some significant
observations & recommendations accruing from the present study have been
presented in sequel.

In Chapter 1 the various aspects of the environmental problems, scope of


investigation, general description of the area viz. introduction about the area
under investigation, its Geographical location in Himalayas & Sirmaur district,
accessibility, drainage climate, flaura and fauna etc are described. The area
forms Southern most part of district Sirmaur & falls in Kamoun Himalayas as per
the Classification by Gansser, 1964.

In Chapter 2nd the detailed Geology of the area, its regional & local setup along
with the Geological Formation under attack by the mining industries has been
described. The Geological set up at the Public Sector Mine of M/S Cement
Corporation of India is also described. All the private mines are in Krol Formation
and at Manal mine of M/s Cement Corporation of India (CCI), the mining of
Sataun limestone is being done.

Chapter 3rd deals with the mining scenario in Sirmaur. A good proportion of
limestone of Krol Formation is fit to be used in cement and chemical industry and
thus is being exploited at a number of places by opencast mining method. The
area under active mining is quite small as compared to the district as a whole.
But, due to the closure of mining activity at Dehradun-Mussoorie region, the
earthbound resources of study area are under attack at an accelerated rate. After
visiting almost every mine, the location, topography, slope, vegetation, natural
water bodies and methods adopted by the lessees etc, the suitability of the
mining leases have been assessed for mining purpose. The degradation of the
local environment by the methods of mining adopted for mining limestone mineral
and restoration measures taken, if any, have been assessed. Alhough the mining
plans have been prepared by individual mine owners, practically they have their
own plans. They want to exploit maximum mineral in minimum time span by
plundering the “Mother Earth”. As a result the local environment has been
degraded. The agricultural lands are denuded and people prefer to work in
mining activities, besides their routine activities.

In Chapter 4, which describes the impact of mining activity of various parameters


viz. Air environment & its pollution, the ambient air quality monitored has been
assessed, discussed and presented by plotting various graphs etc. The ambient
air data of CCI Mine at Manal, studies conducted by CMRI and data of two
Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations set up at Paonta Sahib have been
scrutinized, plotted in graphs and compared with the Standards fixed by Central
Pollution Control Board. It has been seen that the peak values above the
prescribed limits are also observed at some times at Tilor Dhar, Sataun stock
Yard and Paonta Sahib Industrial area. These are marked as air hot spots.

This chapter also emphasizes on the problems of “Deforestation & erosion”


raised on various accounts and remedial measures have been suggested. The
Aerial data has been used for this purpose to assess the land degradation and
the land degradation maps are prepared. The existing landslides problem in the
area, disasters, human settlement problems, siltation of Giri river etc are also
discussed. Some remedial measures are also suggested while discussing the
problems.
Mining of minerals has produced positive effects such as construction of roads,
raising socio-economic status of local people by giving employment. But
unfortunately the instability of mining industry along with speedy and uncontrolled
exploitation of minerals, presence of seismically active M.B.F., formation of
weak zones, neo-tectonic activity, high rainfall, ill-managed roads and above all
lack of knowledge of protection of environment among contractors due to their
reluctance to think about future environmental hazards, unconventional method
of mining activity adopted by lessees, dumping of low grade / waste material on
hill slopes and further in some of the cases unsuitable topography/size/location
of lease areas have also resulted in negative effects which are much more in
proportion than positive effects. These are manifested in land degradation,
depletion of greenery from hillocks and soil erosion, water pollution,
destabilization of hill slopes and occurrences of landslides, siltation of Giri and
bank erosion, air pollution etc.

Mining and associated activities have also affected the nearby inhabitant’s wild
life, ecology. Deforestation on sub-Himalayan rocks are some of the factors
responsible for depletion of forest cover in study area. Study of forest cover in
Sirmaur (as a whole) with the help of forest maps of H.P. on scale 1 : 1000000
(prepared by N.R.S.A.) based on LANDSAT imageries (false color composite)
with limited fields check for the years 1972-75 and 1980-82 reveal that within 7
years the closed forests have decreased at an average annual rate of 3.46%
open-degraded forests have decreased at an average annual rate of 6.15%.
The depletion of greenery from hillock has accelerated soil erosion. Throwing
away of boulder and scree on the hill slopes without any attempt to stack the top
soils so as to use this after mining operation for restorations of terrain have
caused extensive erosion which occurs by under cutting of soil cover. The
scree/loose material in rainy season becomes debris flow and thus a large area
has been degraded on account of mining activity. This problem can be tackled by
planned massive scale afforestation. Construction of vegetational barriers along
contours, check dam of brushwood across small gullies and streams can check
soil wash.

In study area landslides occur generally in weak rock or zone formed on


account of blasting for mining and road construction. The landslides seem to be
governed by topography/slope/land use/geological structure/lithology or
combination of these. Most of the landslides occur in weak zones and barren or
less vegetated areas and are found in an area just 1-2 km from tectonic contacts.
The earth slides occur along Rajban-Sataun road section. Major slope failure
occurs along Renuka-Shilla road section. These landslides have caused lot of
destruction of life, property, road wreckages and blockage and other
inconveniences to people. The landslides can be minimized with the help of
mechanical structures (retaining walls, check dam etc.) along with proper growth
of vegetation. Jute netting and reduction of slope will be helpful. The selection
of design for mechanical structures with proper drainage facilities significant
amount of revenue to state government besides giving employment to large
number of people. The mining in this area feeds the industries of the district and
surrounding states. Unfortunately, while exploiting mineral no harmony is kept
with nature and mining has been done in an unscientific way thus speedily
degrading the environment without keeping in mind long term plans. The
continuation of such speed and unscientific exploitation in future may not only
deplete its mineral wealth but will also harm its water resources, soils, greenery
etc. Only scientific mining should be allowed and further mineral exploitation and
forest management should be planned district-wise. Some of the mine leases
which are unsuitable due to location/topography/size etc. will have to be closed
to protect the environment. About 50% of the mine lease area is not suitable for
scientific mining. It is suggested that Mine lessees should be educated about the
ill-effects of soil erosion, deforestation, water and air pollution etc. A balance
between the immediate and long term requirements of industrial society should
be maintained. A master plan should be prepared and launched to find mineable
reserves, protect soil erosion, regreen the hillocks and development of various
industries etc. Only non-polluting industries should come up at Paonta Valley.
While planning any developmental project, regional scenario should also be kept
in mind.

Present mining activity is unsatisfactory and tricky one and is fast approaching a
situation when it will become difficult to protect the environmental degradation.
Till now, with the exception of 1-2 mines, no remedial measures are taken to
protect the environmental degradation. Serious dents are put to “Mother Earth”
which can be repaired without wasting time. Otherwise in the coming few years
it will be an excuse to close most of the mine as happened in Mussoorie area on
account of large scale environmental deterioration. In fact, mining industry should
be given assistance so as to develop the mines on scientific lines to safeguard
the ecosystem. Besides forming weak zones prone to landslides, blasting of
rocks has also resulted in noise and vibration problem and hazards from flying
rocks. The modern blasting techniques following method of delays, sealing of
zone of danger before blasting and employing qualified blaster can reduce such
problem. Blasting should not be allowed in week zones or in an area which is
near to PWD road, agricultural lands, springs etc. Blasting time should be fixed
and area –wise blasting should only be allowed. The mass transportation of
sediments has also resulted in silting up of Giri river and streams in mining
zones, thereby decreasing their carrying capacities. A large area of agricultural
land has been eroded on account of bank erosion as see near Bangran bridge.
Construction of artificial levees, dredging, artificial short cutting, afforestation on
less productive areas along bank etc. can minimise bank erosion.

Mining has also enhanced the transport industry. Due to existence of dusty roads
and setting up of industries in Paonta Valley, the ambient air quality is also
deteriorated. These industries have also disturbed thermal regime of area. The
cement plant of M/s C.C.I is the biggest air polluting plant. The suspended
particles from lime-kilns do not allow formation in gram and linseed and is
hindering the growth of trees. Setting up of lime kilns of proper design with
pollution control measures such as chimney cyclone with scrubber or bag filter
etc. can reduce such a problem thereby saving the individuals from health
hazards. Further lime-kilns should be kept away from residential and sensitive
areas. Flat top kiln should be discouraged as these can easily pollute the nearby
areas.

Silting of Giri river (upstream Jatau Barage) and Renuka lake are other
environmental problems which need much attention for their management. A
considerable portion of lake has become marshy on account of long time
neglect towards environments. Catchments area should be protected from
erosion.

The mining industry, under reference, is rich and contributes to water resources,
woodlands and have caused lot of destruction to property, roads and blockages;
and sometimes destruction of life also. At places, caves are found in rock
formations on account of mining activity. Such caves can give way anytime due
to weight of the overlying rocks and may result in loss of life or property in nearby
area. Wherever the caves become more than 1-2 m deep abutments or supports
on the hanging wall side of these caves should be provided.

The chemical analyses of water sample from nearby area and around mining
zones reveal that E.C., Ca. Mg, HCO3 increase from upstream portion of mining
area to downstream portion of mining areas. There is, however, not much
change in the concentration of Na, Cl, SO4 and K from upstream direction to
downstream direction of mining area. The study of Piper’s Trilinear diagram
reveals that in general, most of the water samples of study area belong to Ca-Mg
cations facies and bicarbonate/bicarbonate-chloride-sulphate anion facies. The
water sample from Giri river section (downstream Manal quarry) represents
bicarbonate anion facies and Ca-Mg cation facies. Barag khala (upstream)
represents Ca-Mg cation facies and bicarbonate-chloride-sulphate anion facies.
To control degradation of water quality efforts should be made to reduce the
discharge of toxic and objectionable wastes and effluent into surface water
bodies, groundwater aquifers or usable land to a minimum. Settling ponds and
coagulant aids prior to discharge of wastes into water bodies can reduce the
influx of fines. A regular monitoring program for chemical quality of water in
mining areas should be undertaken.

Mining has also reduced greenery from hillocks considerably. This has resulted
in serious imbalance in study area. Much of the closed forests in Sirmaur district
has been reduced in high reaches of Trans-Giri section. The direct damage to
closed forests on account of mining activity may be less but illegal exploitation
illicit felling, leasing, leasing grants in close forests, forest fires, human
interference, grazing and encroachment to these forests near the mining areas
has enhanced the land degradation. The following hot spots have been identified.

Identification of Hot Spots: Based upon the present study, the hot spots with
respect to various components of environment have been identified, which are as
under:

• As far as air environment is concerned, the four places viz. Sataun, Tilor
Dhar, Pamta & Paonta Sahib area are categorized where SPM level is
found to be comparatively high but still below the limit. In valley area of
Paonta Sahib, the peak values of SPM above the prescribed limits fixed
by CPCB are observed during the Stock Monitoring of M/s CCI and such
limits sometimes cross at Gondpur, Industrial Area Monitoring Site.
• As far as water environment is concerned, the stretch of Milkan-ka-Khalla
and stretch between confluence point of Milkan-ka-khalla and about 10-12
km either upstream as well as downstream of Giri River are categorized
as hot spots, frequent changes in water quality can be observed due to
contribution from mining activities and landslides.
• With regard to land degradation, the area around Kamroo-Sataun, Shilla
zone and Renuka-Sataun Road are categorized as hot spots.