Green fee withdrawn

Govt drops Polluter-to-pay policy under legislators pressure

Reason: Many quarry owners belong to backward castes like Bovi community and that they will not be able to pay the fee. The Department of Forest, Environment and Ecology has issued an order to this effect on January 7, 2010.

However, those quarrying stones (under non-specified minerals) used for construction activities will have to pay the fee.

The Government had in February 2009 imposed the Environment Protection Fee of Rs 84,000 per hectare on mining and quarrying on non-forest, agriculture, patta and revenue land for the first time.

The Government had stated, “a provision to impose the fee on non-forest land does not exist though the environmental degradation impact is more or less the same as mining and quarrying on forest land.” So, it had adopted the “polluter-to-pay” policy.

The State has a total 12,000 acres of quarries with 5,939 license holders. Of these, 4,883 leases are for non-specified minerals. This apart, there are 2,900 sand mining blocks across the State. This means nearly 70 per cent of the quarries are for non-specified minerals –– the major environmental polluters.

Interestingly, though the Department of Mines and Geology has been directed to collect the fee with immediate effect, it has not commenced the collection so far. Both Environment and Mines and Geology departments directly come under Chief Minister Yeddyurappa.

Due to reckless and rampant sand mining and quarrying, underground water has been polluted in hundreds of villages across the State. Quarrying has also led to soil erosion and air pollution. There are instances in places like Bangalore rural, where the entire village was forced to shift due to air pollution, officials pointed out.

Bowing to pressure

According to sources, the Government withdrew the fee buckling to the pressure from legislators cutting across party lines. “Many legislators of all three major political parties are engaged in quarry business. Due to their pressure, the Government decided to exempt the fee for all non-specified minerals. In reality, not many belonging to backward classes and economically weaker section own and operate quarries and sand mines,” sources explained.

When contacted, Deputy Director (Mineral Administration) of Mines and Geology Department Sonne Gowda maintained that many quarry leases were owned and operated by backward castes and that they had petitioned the department to give an exemption. “We are also planning to give exemption to building stones as it will help bring down the cost of construction materials,” he said.

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