HYDERABAD: A division bench of Sindh High Court (SHC) Hyderabad circuit on Wednesday stayed excavation of stone in Karoonjhar hills of Nagarparkar while issuing notices to the federal secretary of natural resources, secretary of forest and wildlife, Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), secretary of mines and minerals and different marble companies.
The bench, comprising Justice Nadeem Akhtar and Justice Adnanul Karim Memon, also issued notices to the additional advocate general and deputy attorney general for Dec 5 with directives to file comments before the next date of hearing. Till then, the court ordered, respondents were jointly restrained from cutting mountain or removing any minerals from there.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by Ghulam Mustafa Hingorjo, a resident of Tharparkar. He appeared in person before the court. He argued that respondents were involved in illegal cutting of Karoonjhar hills, and excavating and removing valuable minerals. He said the respondent officers were not taking action against such illegal activity.
The petitioner cited the federal secretary of natural resources, secretary of mines and minerals, secretary of forest and wildlife, assistant director of mines and minerals, deputy commissioner, director general of the FWO, and eight different marble processing companies as respondents.
He said Karoonjhar was a historical mountain of Tharparkar — the only real natural resource of Sindh.
He said that cutting in any manner by the respondents through contractors would create problems. The mountain was covered with world’s unique granite rocks, he said, adding that it constituted oldest rocks of earth’s crust and china clay and it was quite different from desert.
He said the FWO and private respondents were in business of extracting natural resources from the unique mountain of Tharparkar and shifting huge pieces of the mountain all over Pakistan.
He said the Sindh mines and minerals secretary illegally and without consent of the inhabitants of Tharparkar leased out the mountain.
He said that since the illegal lease, the respondents failed to ensure welfare of inhabitants of Tharparkar although they were duty-bound to provide health facilities to people, but they failed. He said the listed respondents had not spent a single penny for development sector, especially on metalled roads. It was due to heavy loading machines that already existing roads of Tharparkar were destroyed, he added.
He said members of civil society and stakeholders raised objections at different forums against the illegal cutting of the hills but to no avail. He said the prime minister called a report regarding the matter through the chief secretary of Sindh.
The petitioner said the secretary of forest and wildlife took notice of this activity and floated a summary to the Sindh chief minister, suggesting that the mountain be declared a national park.
He said the hills were home to animals, birds and rare species, including peacocks, deer etc. It was the only source of water for humans, birds, animals in Nagarparkar. It also stood as a symbol of civilisation of indigenous communities and their rituals, culture, customs, traditions, folklore, songs, tales and thousands of years’ religious harmony.
Karoonjhar hills, he said, were sacred for Hindus and Muslims and source of income for locals during rain when thousands of tourists visited the spot. It provided bread and butter to locals, he said.
He maintained that for years the mountain was under threat because of illegal cutting for sale of precious stone with the help of government and influential politicians.
He said civil society organisations had launched a ‘Save Karoonjhar’ campaign to get it declared a world heritage so that thousands-year old culture could be saved. He said the mountain was the identity of Shaheed Rooplo Kolhi who fought British army and was hanged there.
He prayed the court to declare Karoonjhar mountain as one of the natural resources and historical, traditional spots of Sindh.
He said the court should direct the federal secretary and Sindh secretary of mines and minerals to restrain the respondents from extracting granite from Karoonjhar.
The court should also call a report from the respondents to ascertain under what law such activity was going on.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019