Extensive lignite mining in the Indian (Thar) Desert commenced within the past decade. Accompanying extraction of this valuable resource there have been visible, important environmental impacts. The resultant land degradation has prompted concern from both public and regulatory bodies. This research assesses the success of rehabilitation plans implemented to revegetate a lignite mine-disturbed area, near the village of Giral in western Rajasthan State. Rehabilitation success was achieved within the environmental constraints of this northwest Indian hot-desert ecosystem using a combination of: (1) backfilling (abandoned pits) with minespoil and of covering the backfilled-surfaces with fresh topsoil to a thickness of about 0??30 m; (2) use of micro-catchment rainwater harvesting (MCWH) technique; (3) soil profile modification approaches; (4) plant establishment methodologies; and (5) the selection of appropriate germplasm material (trees, shrubs and grasses). Preliminary results indicate that the resulting vegetative cover will be capable of self-perpetuation under natural conditions while at the same time meeting the land-use requirements of the local people. The minespoil is alkaline in nature and has high electrical conductance. The average content of organic carbon, N, P and K is lower than in the regional topsoil. However, the concentration of Ca, Mg, Na and total S in the minespoil is much higher than in the topsoil. Further, the spoil material has no biological activity. Enhanced plant growth was achieved in MCWH plots, compared to control plots, where minespoil moisture storage was improved by 18-43 per cent. The rehabilitation protocol used at the site appears to have been successful because, in addition to the planted species, desirable native invasive species have become established. This study developed methods for the rehabilitation of lignite mine-disturbed areas and has also resulted in an understanding of rehabilitation processes in arid regions with an emphasis on the long-term monitoring of rehabilitation success. ?? 2004 John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.
Additional publication details
Rehabilitation of a lignite mine-disturbed area in the Indian Desert