Halt Mining Projects
By: Vijay Kumar H K
The Karnataka reserve forests in Ballari are at the mercy of profit-driven mining companies. Last year, the Supreme Court lifted a decade-old ban and increased the annual mining limit from 28 million tonnes to 35 million tonnes.
Following that, mining companies filed requests to explore minerals in thousands of acres of forest land. As a result, biodiversity hotspots such as the 500-acre Hosapete Reserve Forest, which borders the eco-sensitive Daroji Bear Sanctuary, are under threat.
Kudremukh Iron Ore Corporation Limited (KIOCL) recently registered a 50-year mining lease to explore iron ore in Swamimalai Block Forest and manganese ore in Devadari Hill Range.
The terrestrial and scrub forests allocated for excavation cradles diverse species of flora and fauna. The dense ecosystem is home to leopards, sloth bears, black bucks, jackals, wolf, tiger, lions amongst other thriving wildlife forms.
According to reports, the government ignored Forest Department concerns about a mining proposal by KIOCL in Sandur’s virgin forests. Last December the company received final clearance for a project that involves cutting of almost one lakh trees.
While the government has completely ignored the negative environmental impact, there is also no accurate Environmental Impact Assessment. Ballari was the mining capital of Karnataka. When illegal mining depleted natural resources, the Supreme Court prohibited mining in 2011, citing environmental concerns.
The hazardous mining waste that was carelessly dumped proved toxic to the environment. It caused massive soil erosion and water contamination, as well as the destruction of agricultural and forest lands.
The chemicals emitted by rampant mining contaminated the air, reducing air quality and endangering citizens’ health. Mining activities in ecologically sensitive areas, such as Sandur, have a negative impact on wildlife while causing unnecessary disruption to their fragile habitats.
Excessive mining activities in the past have robbed indigenous peoples of their health and livelihoods, while depriving Ballari of its abundant natural resources. Human intervention in Nature’s intricately linked ecosystems will disrupt organic harmony, resulting in irreversible loss of indigenous biodiversity.
Time is running out to learn from past mistakes and protect what we have left. As a result, the Karnataka Forest Department must publish an accurate Environmental Impact Assessment and halt mining projects for the sake of our environment and that of future generations.
(The author is an Environmentalist from Raichur, Karnataka)