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In a significant verdict, Madhya Pradesh High Court’s principal bench in Jabalpur on Tuesday stayed the diamond mining project proposed in the Buxwaha forest located in Chhatarpur district. During the hearing, the double bench of HC Chief Justice Justices RV Malimath and Vijay Shukla observed that stone-age rock paintings, statues of Kalchuri and Chandel era and other such historic structures can’t be destroyed.
Issuing a stay order, the HC bench made it clear that any mining activity will only take place in the said area after its verdict.
The hearing was based on a PIL filed by a non-profit organisation, Nagrik Upbhokta Manch, based in Jabalpur, who sought a stay on the mining operations. They also referred to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report, which had affirmed the presence of stone-age rock paintings and other historic structures in the forest.
Advocate Surendra Verma, the counsel of the petitioners, told the court that ASI had surveyed the Buxwaha forest and had submitted a report with the court in July, on whose basis, his clients had sought a stay on mining operations.
The ASI, in its report, had mentioned that the rock paintings found in the Buxwaha forest are as old as 25,000 years and could be destroyed if the mining activities are carried out in the area. The ASI had also detected the presence of Kalchuri and Chandel era statues and pillars in the region.
The HC, during the hearing, on Tuesday directed the ASI, the state and central governments to furnish their replies on the matter.
A private mining company was offered the contract of diamond mining on 364 hectares of forest land in the region, a decision that drew national and international flak. The lives of around 8,000 local inhabitants are also at stake as these dwellers rely completely on the jungles. Wildlife activists have alleged violation of various environmental norms with regard to the project, which is also expected to dent groundwater sources in the parched region.