Union govt halts forest clearance at Anantapur

Union govt halts forest clearance at Anantapur

Area comes under mines owned by Reddy brothers

Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh communicated the centre’s suspension order to the Andhra Pradesh forest department on Monday.

No mining activities will be allowed in these mines till Survey of India completes a fresh survey of these five disputed mines.

Even though the Supreme Court had earlier asked the Survey of India to freshly map these mines in the wake of the illegal mining controversy, the exercise could not be completed due to Andhra Pradesh government’s inability to provide police protection to the Survey of India officials during the mapping exercise, reliable sources told Deccan Herald.

The Survey officials sought police protection apprehending criminal attempts to disrupt the mapping exercise.

The union environment ministry’s decision follows the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee’s findings that there are “prima facie” discrepencies in the information furnished by the Andhra Pradesh government on the actual extent of these mines.

In 2001, the Reddy family was given leases of three mines measuring 25.98, 39.5 and 68.5 hectares at Obulapuram and H  Siddapuram villages in Anantapur. There are allegations that mining activities are continuing unabated in areas outside the original lease areas.

In the wake of sustained controversies on illegal mining involving these three mines, the Anantapur divisional forest officer issued five show-cause notices to the Obulapuram mining company and Anantapur mining company asking them to explain why their mining leases should not be suspended. The centre's decision appears to be an official extension of the process. 

Last week, Rajya Sabha MP MV Mysura Reddy alleged that the Andhra government leased 180 acres out of 827 acres to these companies, but they illegally grabbed the entire Obulapuram.  The Telugu Desam Party MP demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe into the irregular sanctioning of mining leases, irregular mining in Obulapuram as well as in the entire Ballari Reserve Forest Area in Andhra Pradesh, Thumati and Vittalapuram villages in Karnataka.