Local Experts Rally Against Conservation Threat To Karoonjhar Hills From Granite Extraction

Local Experts Rally Against Conservation Threat To Karoonjhar Hills From Granite Extraction
Lawyers including Ishrat Lohar and Sajjad Ahmed Chandio, who were made amicus curiae of the court by a double bench of Sindh High Court Hyderabad on Friday, visited different points of the Karoonjhar hills in Parkar region to examine the damaged sites and met with the leaders of Karoonjhar Sujag Forum and villagers. Both 'friends of the court' along with the leaders of Thar Bar Council including Teerath Jhangi, Ghulam Mustafa Higorjo, Fakir Munwar Sagir and others during their visit met with the leaders of the of the forum, who appraised them of the situation of conservation in the local environment.

Allah Rakhio Khoso, Zulfikar Ali and others deplored the fact that despite court orders, illegal practices which damage the site have not been stopped by the officials of the district administration, which was causing more damage to different sites of the hills. Both senior lawyers assured the leaders and people of the Parkar region that they would submit the detailed report to the double bench during the next hearing. Speaking to the media, Chandio and Lohar said that they personally think that it was not only the flagrant violation of the court orders to stop granite extraction but also a deliberate attempt to damage the hills to earn the money. They said that it was the time to protect such beautiful sites with cultural, religious and historical significance, adding they said that the reaction of the people to the extraction of granite from various sites was natural, since the hills have a sacred significance in addition to their scenic value.

Experts, seismologists, geologists, environmentalists and people from different walks of life, speaking to the participants during the conference on the Karoonjhar Hills organised by the Thar Technical Forum at Islamkot Press Club warned about the catastrophic conditions in the region if miners were not stopped from doing damage to different points of the hills.

Dayal Sehari, a geologist and the chief of the forum, speaking on the occasion, deplored the fact that high-ups of the government were not worried by the alarming conditions due to the ongoing granite extraction and expressed fear that if such a practice were not stopped forthwith in the light of the court orders, the region might face frequent earthquakes.

He said that the Karoonjhar Hills were among those very few ancient hills which had surfaced on earth due to certain natural changes. He informed the participants that the hills were among the seven oldest shields and were part of the Indian Shield, which had surfaced thousands of years ago and were naturally a great protection against earthquakes.

'Friends of the Court' visit Parkar on fact-finding initiative

Sehrai recalled that it was the Karoonjhar Hills which had saved the parts of Tharparkar and southern parts of Sindh when terrible earthquakes had played havoc in the bordering Indian states, killing thousands of people in 2001. He said that a number of experts who had examined the rocks at Kharsar site believed that if hills at that site were further damaged, a volcano might erupt and could create terrible conditions in the entire region. "Extracting stones from such sites is tantamount to playing with fire. If it erupts, it will be next to impossible to save the region from its disastrous effects," he warned, asking the high-ups of the government to hire experts to carry out thorough studies before it was too late to save the entire region from the looming catastrophe.
Advocate Wasand Thari believes companies enjoying the patronage of the government were not ready to obey the frequent court orders to stop their criminal activities

He said that all such illegal activities were also badly affecting the fertility of the soil of the Parkar region which, according to him, unlike other sandy areas of the desert was much more fertile, and could produce a wide variety of crops if properly provided water and conducive atmosphere without tampering with its natural layers.

Atta Mohammad Rind, an eminent geologist and hydrologist, speaking on the occasion, said that due to the Karoonjhar Hills, the entire region had remained fertile since time immemorial. During rainfall, certain particles flowed with rainwater and protected the lands from turning saline or becoming marshes like many other parts of Tharparkar. He said that such acts would not only deprive people from cultivating their traditional rainwater but the livestock, the mainstay of the economy of Tharis, would get nothing to eat since all grasses and bushes would cease to germinate and grow in the wake of such conditions. He warned that with each day, due to unabated extraction of both gravel and granite, the region was fast losing its fertility and it could turn impotent for crop cultivation if all such activities were not stopped forthwith.

Advocate Wasand Thari, who is the president of Thar Bar Council, said that authorities in power appeared least concerned by the devastation and degradation of geography and environment of Thar due to coal mining and the extraction of granite from Karoonjhar. He called for “the rulers to mend their ways and take the cries of Tharis seriously for their survival on their own land.” He added that it was difficult to understand why authorities had allowed companies to destroy the environment and ecology of the desert at a time when the entire world was deeply concerned about the terrible effects of the fossil fuels and major investments were being made globally in saving the environment and ecology. In his view, companies enjoying the patronage of the government were not ready to obey the frequent court orders to stop their criminal activities – even at such sensitive sites.

Ameer Azdad Panhwar, the central leader of Sindh United Party, said that the natural beauty of Thar was being badly damaged. “It is the need of the hour to come out on to the roads of the entire province [in protest] to save heritage sites like Karoonjhar, which have hundreds of religious and historical sites, all of which need to be protected with the help of international experts.”

Allah Rahio Khoso, the chief of the Karoonjhar Sujag Forum, said that officials of the district administration were not around to implement a complete ban on the extraction of granite at certain points. It was a cruel joke with admirers of Karoonjhar’s beauty and ecosystem, and “a step towards creating serious environmental hazards in the region.” Khoso asked the lawmakers from Thar to play their due role and stand with them to save the hills from further damage.

He reiterated the demand of the forum to designate the entire Parkar as a wildlife sanctuary, and said that sincere efforts must be made to include it into the list of UN World Heritage sites. He said that those flouting court orders would not only badly damage the hills but would also soon force the locals to leave their abodes. He requested the participants of the conference to exert pressure on the government and to write to international bodies to come to their rescue.

Zulfikar Ali Marri, a soil scientist, expressed his deep concern over the activities being carried out by the miners in different parts of Tharparkar and said that it was very dangerous to disturb the ecology and environment of the Parkar region by cutting into the hills. "All such acts are going to terribly affect the soil and the entire green desert will soon turn into a real desert with no botanical growth, if such activities were not stopped forthwith," he added.

Subhan Samejo, the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Tharparkar, said that it was a criminal silence on the part of lawmakers, who allegedly kept mum over the massive destruction and warned of dire consequences if such activities were allowed to play havoc with such sensitive sites. “It is the responsibility of every sane person of Thar to stand with the people of Parkar region in their ongoing struggle against the extraction of the precious stone,” he opined.

Syed Arif Shah, Obhayou Junejo, Bheemraj Meghwar, Kabir Bheel and others also spoke on the occasion and expressed their resolve to save Karoonjhar from further devastation.

The writer can be reached at hanifsamoon@gmail.com