5 quarrying units near BNP lose operational licence

5 quarrying units near BNP lose operational licence

The 10-km radius of the Bannerghatta National Park is an eco-sensitive zone and no activity is permitted there. FILE PHOTO FOR REPRESENTATION PURPOSE

The operational licence of five quarrying units falling under the eco-sensitive zone of the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) has been cancelled, while notices are being issued to another 10 establishments. 

The action has been taken by the Department of Mines and Geology. 

Environmental organisations had raised concerns over quarrying taking place around the BNP, especially at Ragihalli. They also shot off written appeals to Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, about stone quarrying. 

Prof T V Ramachandra, from IISc; Praveen Bhargav, managing trustee, Wildlife First; and Justice (Retd) M F Saldanha had also opposed quarrying, saying it will adversely affect the environment and increase man-animal conflict. 

M S Prasanna Kumar, director, mines and geology department, said notices were served on 10 quarrying units and that a joint survey had been undertaken along with forest officials. Three licences of Kushal Stones and one each of Ashok and Suresh (licence holders) have been cancelled. 

All of them have appealed to the High Court of Karnataka.

Vijay Nishanth, founder of Project Vruksha, said the companies had submitted "false" information to the forest department while seeking permission for quarrying in Ragihalli. Their actual application was for stone-crushing units. But forest officials didn't care to verify the location and gave permission. A mapping of geographical coordinates clearly shows these places fall in the BNP buffer zone. 

What the rules say 

Forest and wildlife protection rules mandate that if an area has been identified as an elephant corridor or as a buffer zone, no activity can be permitted there. But at Ragihalli and the surrounding areas, locals and forest officials had reported the movement of around 400 trucks day and night. 

Bhargav said the state government had delayed publishing the final notification on identifying and declaring the eco-sensitive zone around the BNP under pressure from lobbyists. The 10-km radius of a national park should be declared an eco-sensitive zone. The Supreme Court, too, ordered as much. Besides, all kinds of development are banned in the surroundings of elephant corridors, as stipulated by the High Court of Karnataka in 2011. Clearly, these rules are yet to see the light of day, he added.