Because of its vast limestone deposits, the state of Himachal Pradesh has over the last 20years attracted several private players like Jaypee,ACC, Ambuja, CCI, Aditya-Birla and Lafarge. Limestone accounts for 75% of the value of mineral production in the state. The boom in the real estate market and infrastructure development after 2002 has motivated cement companies to tap the Northern region’s increasing demand for cement, thus accelerating limestone mining and cement manufacture in the state.
Most of the limestone reserves of the state are in or around forested areas and since 1980 approximately 1700 hectares of forest land have been diverted for limestone mining. Solan has the maximum area under mining leases whereas Sirmaur has the maximum number of leases.
The spread of the cement industry in the state has created a new set of issues, especially for the local populace and the ecology.The severe environmental and health impacts for local people around the plants and mines are hardly a cause of concern for the government and have yet to be documented and highlighted.
In 2006 the Himachal Cabinet approved the setting up of a Rs 900 crore greenfield project in the state by Lafarge, the French multinational and second largest producer of cement in the world. The project has been a centre of controversy since day one, with resistance from local people. The Environment Clearance accorded to the project was quashed by the National Appellate authority last year. The High Court, where the NEAA judgement was challenged ordered (upload copy of order) for another site visit by the EAC. This visit happened in october 2011 and now the decision of the MoEF is awaited on the matter.
Apart from Limestone mining, stone quarrying has been another serious issue plaguing the state especially in areas like Nalagarh and Solan.
Relavant reports and articles:
- La Farce, A Preliminary Investigation Report
- Article on the NEAA Judgement quashing EC to Lafarge – November 2010
- EAC Site Visit report submitted in October 2011