The Supreme Court's decision to uphold its earlier order asking the mining companies to part with 10% of sale proceeds to the authority for the reclamation and rehabilitation (R&R) plan has raised fresh hopes among the people living in the mining-affected areas in the district.
The state government was planning to divert the funds, set aside for the rehabilitation of the mining-affected areas, for other purposes. In this wake, the apex court verdict has gained importance. The mining activities were carried out in Chikkanayakanahalli and Gubbi taluks. It was estimated that the mining areas in the district would get Rs 3,000 crore for reclamation and rehabilitation. The said amount would be raised in a phased manner.
However, the state government was planning to utilise the funds set aside for R&R plans to the proposed Tumakuru-Davangere rail line and for establishing hospitals. The environmentalists had raised objections to the government's plan to divert R&R funds. The Supreme Court has stonewalled the state government's plan by ordering that the funds raised from the mining companies be given to Karnataka Mining Environment Restoration Corporation.
As per Supreme Court appointed committee (CEC), the mining companies have to part with 10% of sale proceeds to the corporation for restoration of mining-affected areas. Accordingly, Rs 3,800 crore has been collected from the mining companies. The district would get at least Rs 1,000 crore. A special-purpose vehicle has been constituted to take up restoration of mining-affected areas. The authorities should start restoration works immediately, says Jnana Sindhu Swamy of Sijna Yuva Samvad Kendra.
He pressed the government not to divert the funds meant for restoration of environment in the mining-affected area to the proposed rail line between Tumakuru and Davangere. The government should utilise the funds for comprehensive ecological development of three affected taluks in the district, he urged.
Madalingana valley in Chikkanayakanahalli taluk has the potential to be developed into an eco-tourist spot. Likewise, Vajra Teertharamaeshwara Hill can be developed into a butterfly park. When there are such opportunities why the government is hell bent on diverting the funds for a railway line, an ecologist questioned.
Why are the legislators of the mining-affected taluks quiet about the government's move to divert funds raised for Reclamation and Restoration. They are answerable to people and should answer about the silence, the ecologist demanded.
What’s in CEC report
Supreme Court appointed Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC), led by P V Jayakrishnan, in August 2011 visited the mines in the district. The committee in its report had stated that about 55 mining companies were issued license to extract ore on 2,678 hectares of land in the district. Of which, 24 companies had carried out mining operations on 1,203 hectares. The companies had illegally extracted ore on 257 acres of forest land.
The report further mentioned that in 2008-09 alone, the companies had extracted 25.30 lakh tonnes of ore (it was 2.03 lakh tonnes in 2001-02). In the joint survey it was found that 17 companies had extracted tonnes of ore illegally. For which, they had paid a fine of Rs 206 crore to the government. The mining lease of 18 companies was cancelled for violating lease norms.
The indiscriminate mining in three taluks had affected farming and damaged the waterbodies and streams in the region. The water table has gone down drastically in the mining areas. It is said, Chikkanayakanahalli taluk was worst hit.
According to the report, the agricultural yield has come down by 75% while horticultural produce has decreased by 60 to 70% due to indiscriminate mining operations. Because of the increase in iron oxide, the soil has lost its fertility and the water table gas gone down considerably. The CEC in its report stated that midday meal scheme for schoolchildren could not be implemented properly in the mining-affected due areas due to dust problem and the many children have skipped school in the dustbowls.