Despite ban, quarrying goes on unabated in elephant corridor

Stone-crushing units continue to operate in defiance of court order
Last Updated 16 October 2012, 20:08 IST

Several government orders, verdicts of the courts, including directions from the Supreme Court, seem to have had no impact on the quarries and stone-crushing units around the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP).

They have not only indulged in the illegal blasting of rock and quarrying, but have also been threatening and abusing people who raise a voice against them.

Over a dozen quarries and stone-crushing units operate in and around the park on the outskirts of Bangalore, especially around the  area at Ragihalli — which forms an important corridor for movement of wildlife, particularly elephants.

Constant blasts from the quarries are scaring away the wildlife, but government authorities have turned a blind eye to the menace, despite complaints from locals.

According to wildlife experts, six quarries operating near Ragihalli fall within 600 metres of the national park boundary. The norms say that no quarry or stone-crushing unit can operate within a one kilometre radius of any national park or wildlife sanctuary.

The Mahanthalingapura village is surrounded by four quarries and three quarries operate from Bukkasagara. Also, Ragihalli and Kallabalu have one quarry each, operating within the vicinity of the park.

Lakshmana (name changed), a resident of a village at Shivanahalli, suffers from severe respiratory ailments because of flying dust from the quarries.

He is neither able to cultivate his fields nor is he ready to move out of his ancestral property. The fate of Narasimha Murthy (also name changed) is no different.

When he attempted to bring the issue to the notice of the authorities, he instead found himself coming under threats from the quarry owners. He is now silent, in fear for his life.

“There are several circulars by the State government, including one issued on January 9, 1991, preventing quarrying leases from being approved  for those units located within one-kilometre radius around the boundaries of the national park,” said a wildlife expert.

Even a direction by the Lok Adalat headed by Justice D V Shylendra Kumar to evict the quarries has been ignored.

On July 10, 1998, the High Court passed an order directing the government to create safe zones by shifting the stone-crushing units. The directive stated that the safe zones should not be within two kilometres of the habitat, (the BNP).

When the affected persons moved the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on the High Court order, the apex court on April 8, 2009, dismissed the appeal, thereby upholding the order of the High Court.

Despite the fact that the High Court’s order to shift the stone-crushing units within a year expired on April 7, 2010, no action has been taken, said local residents. To make matters worse, the Forest department top brass is unaware of the issue.

Dipak Sarmah, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, said he would look into the matter. Vamanacharya, Chairperson, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, said that the board would act when a complaint is lodged.

Admitting that some of the stone-crushing units were operating despite the order, he said he would initiate action even if there was an anonymous letter.

Besides elephants, the park is home to other herbivores such as gaur, chital, wild boar and sambar. The most frequently sighted carnivore is the leopard.

There have been instances of Dholes making an appearance in the forest patches in 2005-06 and in 2008.

A population of  50-70 elephants thrive here and the number of migrant elephants is estimated at 200. The forest is connected with patches such as Thally, Satyamangalam and Kollegal.

(Published 16 October 2012, 20:08 IST)

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