The macro-level environmental impact assessment report for the district was prepared at the behest of the Supreme Court by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education, an institution under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
“In Bellary district, severe and significant damage has been caused to the environment by small lease holders, and the damage has been compounded by blatant illegal and unscientific mining operations. Environmental safeguards and stipulated conditions have been flouted in the greed to mine greater areas and earn more profits,” the report said.
“To mitigate the damage, it is necessary now to take stringent punitive actions.
The defaulting mine owners should be asked to pay for the damage caused to the environment by unscientific mining,” the report suggested.
Mining had led to an increase in the number of road accidents due to density of vehicles in the district, and mining-related diseases like acute diarrhoea and respiratory ailments contributed to 42 per cent of the total health-related problems in Bellary, Hospet and Sandur taluks, the report revealed.
Unregulated mining has had a negative impact on the floral and faunal biodiversity, agriculture and ambient air, along with adverse impacts on human health and well-being. The district has 39 rare endangered species of fauna and nine of flora, besides being rich in medicinally important plant species (109 in Hospet and Sandur blocks, 54 in Bellary block), it said.
Mining operations have caused both habitat fragmentation and degradation along with invasions of exotic weed species. The reduction/loss in habitat contiguity due to mining is affecting the movement of small faunal species, particularly ground dwelling (amphibians and reptiles) and arboreal (birds, squirrels, lizards and tree frogs) fauna.
Continuing depositing of silt and acid mine drainage due to run-off from mines has a bad impact on the diversity and abundance of birds, fish, aquatic mammals, particularly the marsh crocodile and Indian flapshell turtle. Further loss of vegetation cover, habitat degradation and proliferation of weeds will hit butterfly species which provide vital ecosystem services, the report said.