A standing committee of the Rajasthan Wildlife Board's has cleared a proposal to allow the mining of a special sandstone, much sought after by builders including those constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya, from Bharatpur's Bandh Baretha sanctuary.
The proposal to de-notify the sanctuary for the mining of the pink sandstone from there will now be put up before the Rajasthan Wildlife Board, headed by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chief Wildlife Warden Mohan Meena told PTI on Wednesday.
"The standing committee has given the approval and the matter will be now taken up by the state wildlife board for consideration after which it will be sent for the approval by the National Wildlife Board," he said.
Thousands of tonnes of the pink sandstone mined in Bharatpur's Bansi Paharpur have been sourced for the temple over the years, but much more is needed, he added.
There were concerns in Ayodhya that supplies of this stone with a unique pink hue would dry up.
Since blocks of this sandstone had already been carved -- ready to be put in place as the temple comes up -- switching over to a lesser grade of stone would have caused problems.
The Dholpur variant is said to be no match to the Bansi Paharpur stone.
Authorities in Congress-run Rajasthan, however, denied that the move to de-notify the Bansi Paharpur block in Bharatpur's Bandh Baretha wildlife sanctuary has anything specific to do with the Ram temple.
A senior district administration official said the stone is in high demand across the country and the process for the de-notification was not started only because the particular sandstone is required for the Ram Temple.
"There is rampant illegal mining in the area. There is no forest left there and if it is delinked from the sanctuary, the state government will get the revenue from any mining there," he said.
Mining was banned after 2016 but illegal operations continued and the Bansi Paharpur (pink stone) sandstone remained available in the grey market.
Supply of the stone took a hit after the Bharatpur administration seized 25 trucks loaded with illegally mined pink sandstone last September.