You can't beat 'em? Just join them

Failing to check destruction of W Ghats, govt allows its agencies to join race

The State Forest department has in a recently held high level meeting decided to allow Government agencies like PWD, KRDCL and NHAI to take up stone quarrying in the region. The reason cited for the decision is to ensure availability of construction materials, especially stones and boulders, and thereby control illegal quarry activities.

“It has been decided to allow Government agencies to conduct quarrying in one or two places in a taluk. This will not only ensure easily availability of construction materials to the Government agencies, but prevent illegal quarrying,” Conservator of Forest (Forest Conservation) S M Puttabuddhi said.

Hitherto, the State Government was not allowing quarrying in the Western Ghats.
Illegal quarrying is rampant in Western Ghats, and the Government has literally failed to rein in on the illegal activities despite hue and cry raised by non-government organisations. Soon after the decision to allow quarrying, the Government has recommended to the Centre to give permission to the PWD for quarrying in four locations in Shimoga district. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has to give permission to any activity, including quarrying, in the Forest area as per the Forest Conservation Act.

Illegal quarries

According to official sources, there are nearly 1,000 illegal quarries operating in the Western Ghats in the State.

“The Government has to first completely close down these illegal quarries before allowing legal ones to come up. Or, it will become extremely difficult to differentiate between the legal and illegal materials - like the way it has happened with iron ore mining...In the first place, quarrying should not be legalised in the region as it will cause immense damage to the fragile environment,” officials said.

Western Ghats Task Force Chairman Ananth Hegde Ashisara, however defended the Government’s move. “The demand for construction materials is increasing day by day.
Even the Government is finding it difficult to procure construction materials for the developmental projects in districts coming under the region. As a result, illegal quarries have cropped in many places. Once ‘controlled’ quarrying is allowed, we will know exactly where quarrying is being done and appropriate steps can be taken to minimise the environmental damage,” he stated.

He further said permission to quarrying will be given only in selected places that had no forest cover. Legal quarrying will be strictly monitored and the private companies or individuals will not be allowed to take up the activity, he added.

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