Karnataka wants Centre to solve a crushing problem

Its finding HC diktat on safe zones difficult to implement

The High Court had in 1998 directed the State government to identify safe zones by framing a separate policy for stone-crushing operation. It had laid down certain guidelines to be followed while identifying such zones. The Supreme Court too had upheld the High Court order in this regard.

As per the guidelines, safe zones should be 2 km away from the national highway, habitats, temples, schools and rivers, 1.5 km from the state highway, 500 metres from a link road, 8 km from the municipal council office, 4 km from the district headquarters and 2 km from the taluk headquarters. There are 2,266 stone-crushing units in the State. While 787 of them are located within the quarry lease area, the remaining 1,479 are operating outside the lease area. These units, especially those located outside the lease area, are causing immense damage to environment in the absence of any regulation.

The government had, however, found the court guidelines practically impossible to follow.

The government had used the services of the Karnataka State Remote-Sensing Applications Centre (KSRSAC) to identify safe zones. But the KSRSAC, in its report to the government, stated that no safe zone could be identified as per the court guidelines. So, the State Department of Mines and Geology framed a policy — Policy on Regulation and
Control of Stone Crushers in the State-2011 — by relaxing the court guidelines.

But the court was not ready to accept it: It had recently passed strictures against the government for disobeying its order, besides striking down the policy. The court insisted that its guidelines should be strictly followed while identifying safe zones. The State has been given time till September this year to comply with the court order.

The State government, therefore, recently urged the Centre to come out with a comprehensive policy for the whole country. Almost all the states in the country face a similar situation with regard to the issue of stone crushing.

The Centre should come out with a comprehensive policy. Moreover, the Union government will be more capable of convincing the court on many technical aspects, official sources said.

The hitch

“The court has laid down that a safe zone should be located 1 ku from cultivable land and forest land, and 2 ku from a village boundary. There is hardly any patch of land in the State that falls under this category. Unless the guidelines are relaxed, no policy can be formed...If the court guidelines are anything to go by, stone-crushing operation cannot be carried out anywhere in the State,” official sources pointed out.

“At the same time, any drastic measure that results in closure of substantial number of crushers will almost cripple the entire construction industry and deprive thousands of families of their means of livelihood. Any stopping or slowing down of infrastructure development activities will have a catastrophic effect on the State economy,” officials said.

Safe zones for crushing units

Court guidelines for identifying safer zones to locate crushing units
*  2 km away from NH, human habitats, temples, schools and rivers
*  One and a half km from SH
*  500 metres from link roads
*  8 km from the municipal council office
*  4 km from the district headquarters
*  2 km from taluk head-quarters
*  1 km from cultivable land and forest land

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