Villagers in Gue, a small hamlet near the China border in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul and Spiti, are protesting a survey being carried out by the Geological Survey of India to assess the quality of gypsum, a mineral used in the production of fertilisers, cement, and cosmetics.
Gypsum deposits have been discovered on the border of Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts, which are being investigated by the Geological Survey of India’s northern wing. The Department of Industry’s geological wing had previously conducted gypsum detection research in 1990. Four million tonnes of gypsum accumulations have been estimated in the area.
For the past two years, a geological survey team has been researching gypsum and attempting to determine how much quantity is available in the stock found in the mountains of Gue village. Drilling is being carried out to determine the mineral’s storage and quality. If the gypsum quality is found to be acceptable on an economic basis, the government intends to auction the site.
Villagers have expressed opposition to the government’s plan to conduct a survey and then lease the sites to private companies. They are concerned that gypsum exploration will harm the fragile economy and endanger their culture.
“We are all opposed to mining because it will have a negative impact on the environment and our culture in the long run.” Villages have already been depopulated due to a lack of infrastructure. Tenzin, Hurling village lambardaar, said, “We have submitted a memorandum to the government.” “If mining activities begin, outsiders will destabilise the culture we have long preserved,” he added.
Gue is a small village with only 50 to 75 houses, located at an elevation of about 10,000 feet above sea level. It’s about 40 kilometres from the popular 1,000-year-old Tabo Monastery, which is located between the towns of Sumdo and Tabo. The village is a few kilometres from the India-China border, where Sangha Tenzin, a 550-year-old mummified monk, is guarded. In 2004, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police discovered the mummy during a road excavation.
“The villagers are concerned about mining activity. They had come up to me and demanded that it be stopped. Ram Lal Markanda, the minister of tribal development in HP, said, “I would take up the matter with the government.”
A large tract of agricultural land has been destroyed by avalanches, so villagers are more concerned about mining. Villagers have already approached the district administration, requesting that the government provide more land for agricultural purposes.
Gue has now been proposed to be included in the ‘Village Vibrant Program’ by the district administration.
“Under the said programme, there is a proposal to develop Gue as a model village,” said Lahaul and Spiti deputy commissioner Neeraj Kumar.
Under a programme announced in the Union budget for 2022-23, the central government plans to open villages along the Chinese border to tourists.
Village infrastructure, housing, tourist centres, road connectivity, decentralised renewable energy, direct to home access for Doordarshan and educational channels, and livelihood generation will all be part of the activities.