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Illegal Salt Mining and its Impact

Illegal Salt Mining and its Impact

A salt mine is a mine from which halite, commonly known as rock salt, is extracted from evaporite formations. Illegal salt making and its impacts on Sambhar Lake’s ecology: • Unrestrained salt production threatens the very existence of Sambhar Lake, which was declared a wetland of international importance in 1990 by the Ramsar Secretariat for being a unique migratory bird habitat and wetland ecosystem. • The entire stretch is lined with salt refineries, all allegedly manufacturing salt with stolen brine from the lake. • Bad monsoon for several years and a dry lake surface has further led to the salt manufacturers exploiting groundwater by digging illegal borewells in the land that belongs to Sambhar Salts Ltd. • The road to Nawa witnesses’ heavy traffic of tractors ferrying clay from Sambhar that the salt manufacturers use to make ‘kyars’ or brine retaining pits. Impacts: • Excess water extraction has lowered groundwater levels by over 60 meters in the area. • Several dams and smaller anicuts blocking the natural drainage to ensure availability of irrigation water barely contribute to the lake. Hence, deprived of recharge from subsurface flows, the lake is dying. • Pipelines have been dug to illegally extract water from the lake to manufacture salt and the situation is worsening every year. It would soon reach a point where the existence of the Sambhar Lake itself (would be) under threat. • Presence of salt-tolerant algae makes the lake one of the most important wintering areas for flamingos in country, after the Rann of Kachchh. Both Phoniconaias minor and Phoenicopterus roseus, settle here during winters. But their number has fallen drastically in the past two decades because of overextraction of subsurface brine from the lake and pollution caused by illegal salt-making units.

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