A complete ban on mining activities in areas of national parks, tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries could be on the anvil if the government agrees to the recommendations of a high-level environment ministry panel.
The panel, chaired by former environment ministry secretary T Chatterjee, has recommended that thick forests in such areas should be classified as "inviolate".
"Mining blocks shall be considered inviolate if majority of grids falling within a block have been labelled a inviolate," according to the report of the committee to formulate objective parameters for identification of inviolate
The forest grids have to be determined based on their biological richness, thickness, landscape integrity and hydrological and wildlife values, said the report placed in public domain by the ministry.
Though the panel submitted the report in July last year, the ministry chose to make it public at a time when there is lot of discussion in the country on the issue of diversion of forest areas for mining and infrastructure projects.
According to it, all the grids falling in protected areas (national parks and wildlife sancturies) located in within one km distance from boundary of protected areas and compact patches (of minimum 1 km sq size) of very dense forests should be automatically labelled inviolate.
The panel recommended that last remnants of forest types having total geographical area in the country less than 50 sq km and areas located in direct draining catchment of first-order perennial streams being utilised for water source, hydropower and irrigation projects should also be classified as inviolate.
Areas located within 250-metre distance from banks of perennial streams and boundary of important wetlands and storage reservoirs of water supply should also be treated as inviolate, it said.
The panel was constituted after the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee rejected the ‘go, no-go’ policy of the environment ministry, which allowed certain forest areas to be mined.