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Put Sandur mining project on hold

Put Sandur mining project on hold

The pollution caused by mining has also led to serious health hazards.

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Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 23:53 IST
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Mining-ravaged Sandur in Karnataka’s Ballari district may be staring at an environmental catastrophe with the Centre approving the felling of 99,000 trees spread over nearly 1,000 acres. Sandur, which bore the brunt of illegal mining for over a decade, has already lost much of its greenery.

The pollution caused by mining has also led to serious health hazards. The project proposed by the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company (KIOCL) was recently approved by Union Heavy Industries and Steel Minister H D Kumaraswamy. Between June 2019 and February 2020, the proposal to mine iron and manganese ore was rejected by the Forest Department at four levels, starting from the Deputy Conservator of Forests to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF).

In fact, the then PCCF Punati Sridhar wrote to the government in August 2019 that forest areas should not be considered for mining purpose till a detailed exercise was undertaken in the state to map the mineral resources within and outside forest areas and that exploitation of minerals outside forest areas should be prioritised.

However, the Forest Department’s objections were overruled by the state government, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, and now by Kumaraswamy. Curiously, the approval was granted even as a case against the project is pending before the Karnataka High Court. The court had ruled that any further steps taken by the government on the project would be subject to the final outcome of the case.

As it is, both India and Karnataka have been found lacking on the environmental front. India remains one of the worst five in an environmental performance index of 180 nations prepared by two leading US institutions. According to the study by Yale and Columbia University researchers, India fared poorly on parameters like ecosystem vitality, biodiversity and habitat, species protection, terrestrial biome and air quality. While the National Forest Policy of India stipulates that at least 33per cent of the geographical area should be covered by forests, in Karnataka it stands at only 22 per cent, having declined 1per cent over the past decade. 

While it may be necessary to obtain natural resources for economic growth, the government should strike a balance between growth and protection of the environment. In this case, the government appears to have been solely guided by economic considerations, with no thought for the disastrous environmental consequences it will have. The government should first map the mineral resources in non-forest areas as recommended by the Forest Department and put the Sandur project on hold at least until the High Court disposes of the case.

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