Mehta Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 739
(10 May 1996)
Singh (J) Kuldip Singh (J) Venkataswami K. (J)
1996 AIR 1977 JT 1996 (5) 372 1996 SCALE (4)422
O R D
M.C. Mehta - environmentalist lawyer - has filed this public interest petition
under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking a direction to the Haryana
Pollution Control Board (the Board) to control the Pollution caused by the
stone crushers, pulverisers and mine operators in the Faridabad - Balabgarh area. We are in the
process of monitoring the petition. The core question which we propose to deal
with in this order is whether - to preserve environment and control pollution -
the mining operations should be stopped within the radius of five kilometers
(km) from the tourist resorts of Badkal lake and Surajkund in the State of Haryana.
Court by the order dated November
20, 1995 directed the
Board to inspect and ascertain the impact of mining operations on the
ecologically sensitive area of Badkal lake and Surajkund. The inspection was
done by a team of the Board comprising of Dr. B. Sengupta, Senior Scientist, Shri
Lalit Kapoor, Senior Environmental Engineer, Shri R.C. Kataria, Environmental
Engineer and Dr. J. Moitra, Scientist 'B'. The inspection report of the Board
was placed before this Court along with an affidavit filed by Dr. S.P. Chakrabarti,
Member Secretary of the Board. In the affidavit, regarding the mining
activities, it is stated as under:
the purpose of mining, explosives are being used for rock blasting. Because of
unscientific mining operation, overburden materials (top soil and murum remain)
were observed to be lying haphazardly. Deep mining for extracting silica sand
lumps is causing ecological disaster as these mines lie unreclaimed and
abandoned. As a matter of fact mining site reveals total lack of environmental
planning" The report contains the following recommendations regarding the
mining activities in the area:
At present, manual as well as semi- mechanised mining of hard stone, weathered
soft stone and coarse sand in 33 mining area leased by the State Government of Haryana
is operative. Explosives are used for rock blasting.
Environmental Management Plan (EMP) shall be prepared by mine lease holders for
their mines and actual mining operation made operative after obtaining approval
from the State Department of Environment or Haryana State Pollution Control
Board. The Environmental Management Plan (EMP) should be implemented following
a time-bound action plan. Land reclamation and afforestation programmes shall
also be included in the EMP and must be implemented strictly by the
Mining activities should be stopped within a radius of 5 km from Badkhal Lake and Suraj Kund (tourist place).
present mining activities are going on without obtaining consent as required
under the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, from the Haryana
State Pollution Control Board. Mine lease holders shall take appropriate steps
to obtain consent from the State Pollution Control Board failing which the
State Pollution Board shall take necessary action in this regard.
mine owners should adhere strictly to Mine Safety Plan and install all
overburden along with top soil should be properly preserved for use at the time
of reclamation of abandoned mine.
of explosives in the mines should be regulated as per the Explosive Act and
after obtaining approval from the Competent Authorities." This Court on March 21, 1996 noticed the statement of Mr, Gopal Subramaniam,
learned counsel appearing for the State of Haryana in the following words:- "Mr. Gopal Subramaniam states that the
mining work has stopped within the radius of 5 kms of Badkhal Lake and Suraj Kund. We appreciate the gesture of Haryana
Government. Mr. Subramaniam states that the steps to provide green belt in that
area are also in progress. He shall place on record the positive steps which
are in the contemplation." Mr. Shanti Bhushan, Mr. G.L. Sanghi & Mr.
R.S. Suri learned counsel appearing for the mine operators vehemently contended
before this Court on March
29, 1996 that the
mining operations were closed without affording any opportunity to the lessees
of the mines. After hearing learned counsel, this Court passed the following
is no order by this Court directing the closure of the mines.
Bhushan, however, states that in view of the observations made by this Court in
the earlier orders, the Haryana Government has closed the mines in the area.
The main contention raised is that without hearing the mine owners and without
giving them any opportunity, the mines have been closed. Needless to say that
action regarding closure of the mines have been taken on the basis of the
report submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board. Be that as it may, we
give opportunity to these mine-owners to present their case before this
Court." The mining operations within the radius of 5 kms from Badkal lake
and Surajkund were stopped by the Haryana Government on the basis of the
recommendation made by the Board. The mine operators through their learned
counsel raised serious objection to the recommendation of the Board seeking
closure of the mining operations within the radius of 5 kms.
to learned counsel the pollution generated, if any, by the mining activities
cannot go beyond a distance of one km and as such the closure of the mines
within the area of 5 kms was wholly unjustified. It was suggested by the
learned counsel that another opinion in this respect may be obtained from an
expert body like the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute
(NEERI). This Court on April 12, 1996 passed the following order:
have heard learned counsel for the parties. We are of the view that it would be
useful to have the expert opinion of the National Environmental Engineering
Research Institute on the point whether the mining operations in the said area
are to be stopped in the interest of Environmental Protection, Pollution
Control and Tourism Development. If so whether the limit should be five kms. or
therefore, request Dr. Khanna to send an inspection team to the area concerned
preferably within next week to examine the question of closure of the mines from
the environment and pollution point of view. The team shall also examine the
working of the stone crushers and pulverisers in the area. Initially report
regarding mines may be filed. We request Dr. Khanna to have the report filed in
this Court within ten days." The NEERI has filed its inspection report
dated 20, 1996.
have heard learned counsel for the mine operators at length.
two tourist places, Surajkund and Badkal lake, are located in Faridabad district of Haryana State and are at a distance of about 18/24 kms. from New Delhi. Because of their proximity to the
capital city of India these resorts have a great tourist
potential. We may refer to the relevant parts of the NEERI report:
Quality Monitoring was carried out by the Inspection Team at one working mine
beyond 5 km from Badkal lake and Surajkund area to assess the extent of air
pollution from the mining activities, overburden loading and haulage, and to
determine fugitive emissions of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM).
monitoring station was established in upwind direction at a distance of 300 m,
whereas another monitoring station was located in downwind direction at 50m
distance from the face of the mine. The mining activity was being carried out
in an area of 0.75 x 1.0 km2. The air quality monitoring was conducted for
four hours during mining operations. The blasting operation also took place
during the air quality monitoring. At the upwind and downwind stations, SPM
concentrations were observed to be 124 and 416 ug/m3 respectively. The
contribution from mining activities was 292 ug/m3.
air pollutant emission rate of SPM for mining activities was also estimated
using upwind-downwind technique. The fugitive emission rate was 30.26 gm/sec
for production of 4000 tons of stones during four hours.
levels were measured by inspection team at the working mine beyond 5 kms from Badkal
lake. The noise levels were observed to be in the range of 52-80 dBA. The noise
levels were also measured at a distance of 500 m away from the working mine,
and it was observed to be equal to the background noise level of 40-42 dBA.
Noise levels were also measured during blasting, when 820 gms of explosive was
used in four holes of 1.2 m depth. The maximum noise level of 59.5 dBA was
recorded at a distance of 500 m from the blast site. " The following
recommendations have been made by the NEERI in the report:
Mining 6.1.1 Detailed exploratory operations need to be undertaken to
facilitate the estimation of reserves in the region, and for scientific
management of mining operations.
The mine lease owners need to undertake the mining operations in series, i.e.
mining activities must be completed to full potential in a block before moving
to the next.
will help in reclamation of land in the block in which mining operations have
All the mine lease holders need to prepare detailed mining plans, and obtain
approvals before the actual mining operations are initiated. The implementation
of approved mining plans by the mine lease holders needs to be ensured by a
designated authority with specialization in environment.
The mine lease holders should also prepare mine safety plans, and ensure
installation of necessary devices for protection of mine workers.
In view of the observations made by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on
the availability of stone age tools and other historic remains, ASI needs to
work in collaboration with the mine lease holders on matters relating to
Dust suppression measures like sprinkling of water on haulage roads and
overburden dumps and other areas need to be implemented by mine lease holders.
In order to minimize the dust pollution caused due to vehicular traffic, it is
necessary to initiate a number of measures, e.g. an alternate by pass road must
be laid to insure that no vehicles pass through the area within 1 km radial
distance from the periphery of the lakes.
It is necessary to minimize the duration of blasting operations.
Necessary measures must be initiated by the Haryana Tourism Department to
protect the quality of lake waters, and to eliminate the non-point sources of
Environmental Management Plans (EMP) being formulated by the mine owners should
include land rejuvenation and afforestation programmes, and other measures
necessary to protect the quality of the environment and human health.
mining operations should commence only after the approval of EMPs by a
designated authority. A time bound action plan needs to be initiated for the
implementation of the measures delineated in the Environmental Management
In order to protect the Surajkund and Badkal lakes and the associated tourist
complexes, it is necessary to develop and implement scientifically designed
greenbelts around these complexes, as also around boundaries of different
Greenbelt should also be developed and
implemented on either side of the roads in the mining area and Surajkund-Badkal
road to minimize the effects of dust and noise pollution.
The question of lifting the ban on mining operations needs to be considered in
conjunction with the implementation of stringent pollution control, land
reclamation, greenbelt, and other Environmental Management measures so as to
facilitate the availability of construction materials and employment
opportunities for the workers along with the protection of environment and
It is considered necessary to prepare a Regional Environmental Management Plan
for urgent implementation to enable eco- friendly regional development in the
area." Regarding the Green Belt Development NEERI has recommended as
plants possess immense capabilities for dust attenuation, it is recommended
that greenbelts be developed in following areas:
one km radius all around the Surajkund Lake boundary; 200 m wide greenbelt - At
one km radius all around the Badkal Lake boundary; a 200 m wide greenbelt -
Outside the total mining area lease boundary; a 100 m wide greenbelt - On open,
peripheral areas around the stone crushers zone; a 100 m wide greenbelt within
the crusher zone boundary (Figure 3)" The site-wise greenbelt designs have
been presented in Table 4.
side plantations are also required. Depending upon the width of various roads
and the land available, there is a need for two/three rows of trees on either
side of each road. The spacing between the rows may be 5 m, and that between
trees in each row as 6 m. The requirements of plants for road side plantation
has been indicated in Table 4.
greenbelt development involves use of several plant species in hundreds and,
therefore, it is desirable that the work be entrusted to the District Forest
Department that will be able to maintain and generate the required number of
seedlings of all the recommended plant species." The two expert opinions -
by the Board and by the NEERI - leave no doubt in our mind that the mining
activities in the vicinity of tourist resorts are bound to cause severe impact
on the local ecology. The mining brings extensive alteration in the natural
land profile of the area. Mined pits and unattended dumps of overburdened, left
behind during the mining operations, are the irreversible consequences of the
mining operations. Rock blasting, movement of heavy vehicles, movements and
operations of mining equipment and machinery cause considerable pollution in
the shape of noise and vibration. The ambient air in the mining area gets
highly polluted by the dust generated by the blasting operations, vehicular
and the exhaust gases from equipment and machinery used in the mining
Board has notified the Ambient Air Quality Standards by the Notification dated April 11, 1994. The notification fixes limiting
standards of pollutants (Sulphur Dioxide, Oxides of Nitrogen, Suspended
Particulate matter, Respirable Particulate Matter, Lead and Carbon Monoxide) in
respect of sensitive areas, industrial areas and residential, rural and other
areas. The standards for sensitive areas are stringent than the standards
prescribed for industrial and residential areas. The Board has recommended that
the area of 5 kms around the periphery of a centre of tourism be notified as
lake and Surajkund are monsoon-fed water bodies. The natural drainage pattern
of the surrounding hill areas feed these water bodies during rainy season. The
mining activities in the vicinity of these tourist resorts may disturb the rain
water drains which in turn may badly affect the water level as well as the
water quality of these water bodies. The mining may also cause fractures and
cracks in the subsurface, rock layer causing disturbance to the aquifers which
are the source of ground water. This may disturb the hydrology of the area.
are, therefore, of the view that in order to preserve environment and control
pollution within the vicinity of the two tourist resorts it is necessary to
stop mining in the area. The question, however, for consideration is what
should be the extent of the said area? NEERI in its report has recommended that
200 metres green belts be developed at 1 km radius all around the boundaries of
the two lakes. It is thus obvious that twelve hundred meters are required for
the green belts. Leaving another 800 meters as a cushion to absorb the air and
noise pollution generated by the mining operations, we are of the view that it
would be reasonable to direct the stoppage of mining activity within two km
radius of the tourist resorts of Badkhal and Surajkund. We, therefore, order
and direct as under:
There shall be no mining activity within 2 km radius of the tourist resorts of Badkhal
and Surajkund. All the mines which fall within the said radius shall not be
Forest Department of the State of Haryana and in particular the Chief Conservator and the District Forest
Officer, Faridabad shall undertake to develop the
green belts as recommended by NEERI with immediate effect. The NEERI has also
suggested the development plan and the type of trees to be planted. We direct
the Chief Conservator of Forests, Haryana, District Forest Officer, Faridabad and all other concerned officers or
the Forest Department to start the plantation of tree for developing the green
belts and make all efforts to complete the plantations of trees before the
direct the Director, Mining and Geology, Haryana, the Haryana Pollution Control
Board to enforce all the recommendations of NEERI contained in para 6.1 of its
report (quoted above) so far as the mining operations in the State of Haryana
are concerned. All the mines operators shall be given notices to implement he
said recommendations. Failing to comply with the recommendations may result the
closure of the mining operations.
further direct that no construction of any type shall be permitted now on wards
within 5 km radius of the Badkhal Lake and Surajkund. All open areas shall be converted
into green belts.
mining leases within the area from 2 km to 5 km radius shall not be renewed
without obtaining prior "no objection" certificate from the Haryana
Pollution Control Board as also from the Central Pollution Control Board.
both the Boards grant no objection certificate the mining leases in the said
area shall not be renewed.