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Illegal quarrying threatens ecology on BNP fringes

Depts pass buck as forest goes barren in key jumbo corridor
Last Updated 19 June 2016, 19:48 IST

The ecology of the Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) has taken a beating, due to the unabated stone quarrying in the area. Adding insult to injury is the confusion over the grant of a no-objection certificate (NoC) for the activity.

Quarrying, blasting and stone-crushing continue unhindered in survey numbers 69 and 71 of Ragihalli and Shivanahalli villages in Anekal taluk, adjoining the Bannerghatta National Park.

The quarrying meets the growing demand for stone from the construction industry in Bengaluru.

The rapacious assault on the forest is also affecting the lives of the local residents. That the BNP is a prime elephant corridor makes protecting it that much more significant. But the authorities concerned seem least bothered.

The deputy director of the Mines and Geology department claims that the Forest department had given the NoC for quarrying and based on this, the office of the deputy commissioner (DC), through the single-window clearance committee, had accorded permission.

“We have nothing to do with it,” he said. However, Sunil Panwar, the deputy conservator of forests (BNP), questions the claim.

“How can we give permission when we wrote three letters to the mines and geology department to stop quarrying in survey numbers 69 and 71. In one of the letters, I have said that if anything happens to the wildlife, prosecution orders will be issued, as it is a prime elephant corridor,” he said.

Another Forest department official was dismissive. “Maintaining buffer zone around BNP remains only on paper. It is a terminology of the legislature. Wildlife authorities have been asked to stop interfering,” he said.

Incorrect info
Records available with Deccan Herald show that the applicants had submitted ‘incorrect’ information to seek permission for quarrying in survey numbers 69 and 71 from the member secretary, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority in 2015.

On the question whether proposal required clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Wildlife Protection Act, 1975 and CRZ Notification, 1991, the applicant had written, “not applicable – the area does not fall under forest or under CRZ and there is no nearby wildlife sanctuary or other sensitive area.”

But, the facts are to the contrary. Survey numbers 69 and 71 share boundaries with the BNP and connect to the road to Ragihalli and Shivanahalli.

The area is also at the tip of the Western Ghats, Panwar said.

This road cuts through the BNP and is surrounded by several hamlets, a government school, the Sharada Devi government hospital, the Ramakrishna Mission ashram and Camp GD. Around 100 trucks, carrying the stones quarried and the mined sand, travel on this road day and night, disturbing the serene surroundings. 

Also, Ragihalli and Shivanahalli are two of the 16 villages that were adopted by H N Ananth Kumar, the Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, for development under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana.

“Last year, we requested Ananth Kumar to stop the quarrying, but to no avail,” said Chandu Rao, a resident of Shivanahalli.

In 2015, the local residents wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then Chief Justice of India H L Dattu, seeking help in putting an end to the quarrying, but nothing happened. They also contacted D K Suresh, the Bengaluru Rural MP, but were turned away.

Lurking danger
The Gram Panchayat members have filed a police complaint against the company undertaking the quarrying, citing illegality and life threats to them. The police are yet to act on the FIR, said Manjunath, a resident of Shivanahalli.

“There are many instances when stones have fallen on our homes during blasting. The police and the ministers have done nothing about it,” Manjunath said.

DC promises action
On his part, Bengaluru Urban DC V Shankar admits that the quarrying was illegal.
“Four months ago, quarrying was stopped in the area and the earthmovers involved in the work were seized. But now, as I am being informed that it is continuing, another raid will be conducted soon,” the dep-uty commissioner said.

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(Published 19 June 2016, 19:48 IST)

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