History records that during the British period, Ballari was a cantonment area. Known for its hot summer and dry weather for a major part of the year, the British had found an ‘Ooty’ in Ballari’s Ramghad, a hillock in Sandur taluk.
Sandur was an erstwhile princely state ruled by the Ghorpade family. Mulimani Eeranna, a resident of Sandur who turned an activist after illegal mining spoiled the beauty of region, says water sources of the taluk have dried up in the last 10-15 years. “Even now, I can show at least 100 dried up water sources in the forest. A lot of waterfalls have vanished because of mining activities. Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited has conducted a survey on the availability of minerals in our taluk. I feel with Reclamation and Rehabilitation (R&R) fund yet to be released, granting fresh leases may hinder the rejuvenation process,’’ Eeranna said.
Santosh Martin, a wildlife activist from Ballari, says an irreversible damage has already been done to Sandur region. “There are areas where reclamation and regeneration will take several decades. That is the kind of damage that has happened over the years. With the human intervention in the form of R&R, the regeneration can be accelerated. However, the proposed plan of utilisation of R&R includes construction of community halls and laying of roads. It is surprising that even the Forest Department is seeking R&R funds for construction of buildings which I feel amounts to misutilisation of funds,’’ Santosh said.
The activists say that more than roads, which fall within the general responsibility of the district administration, the funds should be utilised for regeneration of the forest cover. “In Sandur taluk, the entire hillock of Ramghad is damaged. It will collapse if something is not done immediately because there is hardly any vegetation left on the hill. A lot of money will have to be spent on afforestation,’’ Santosh said.
The road accidents involving mine trucks have come down in Sandur region after the conveyor belts are used to transport iron ore.
Conveyor belts ease traffic
Srishail Alladahalli, district unit secretary of Jan Sangram Parishat, said the conveyor belts have also reduced the number of trucks on the roads. “NMDC is using conveyor belts to transport iron ore. On the other hand, JSW is building the belt which will be operational soon,’’ he said.
However, Santosh Martin says that conveyor belts require a lot of forest land for the construction of pillars. “It is true that conveyor belts reduce the number of trucks on the roads. However, construction takes a lot of forest area. JSW has requested for a couple of hectares of forest land for the purpose. Forest invasion is still continuing in one way or the other,’’ he said.
On rejuvenating water resources in and around Sandur, Santosh said that R&R will have to play a great role. “Narihalla Dam in Sandur used to get water from the streams originated in the hills. All the water points have been blocked because of insensitive mining in the forest land. We will have to work to rejuvenate these water sources. Just around 10 years ago the dam used to be full,’’ Santosh said.
Mulimani Eeranna said Hulikunti Lake, spread across 185 acres, is filled with mining waste. “This waterbody irrigates 1,900 acres of agricultural land. The lake is the source of water for Bhujanganagar, Sandur, Lakshmipura, Dharmapura and Hulikunti villages. There were four mining leases which carried out reckless mining and dumped the waste from the top of the hill. During the monsoon, the waste flew downstream and settled in the lake. If desilting of the lake doesn’t come under the R&R, then what is the point of having the fund,’’ Eeranna asked.