Laterite quarrying returns to haunt Koraga tribals

Laterite quarrying returns to haunt Koraga tribals near Mangaluru

Children are unable to focus on studies due to the noise coming from mining operations

A view of a mining site near Gundavu Padavu Colony. Credit: DH Photo

The laterite stone mining in Gundavu Padavu Koraga colony, near Old Bajpe Airport, stopped  on the directions of Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) in March 2019 has resumed again shattering peace in the area.

In 2019, Koragara Abhivruddi Sangha, Bajpe, had filed a complaint with the KSHRC when the pleas of members of tribal community received no response from the heads of Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) and district administration. 

After KSHRC declared that Koraga families had a right to lead a “peaceful life,” the district Mines and Geology department did not renew quarry licence. The peace that had prevailed after KSHRC’s directions, shattered as quarrying resumed at a different site closer to the colony from January onwards. 

The mechanised quarrying for laterite stones begins as early as at 5 am and ends up around 8 pm, residents in the colony, located 25 kms from Mangaluru, told DH. The noise generated from stone cutting machines has affected the health of pregnant women and children residing in the colony, said Kiran Raj, a resident. He claimed that he has lodged complaints against mining to deputy commissioner, ITDP and Mines department.

“During night and early morning, the sound is deafening and I go to sleep only after the sound of machines, departing trucks subside at 10 pm,” informs Narayan, a daily wager, whose house is located just 100 meters away from the quarry site. As children cannot concentrate on online classes, some are sent to the houses of relatives. 

“The quarry owner has not taken any precautions to contain the spread of fine dust,” Kiran alleged.

Though the colony is located around 300 meters away from the laterite quarry, the reports of department of Agriculture (dated August 4, 2020) and Mangaluru tahsildar (dated August 26, 2020) declare that there were no houses in the vicinity.

Maxim Pinto, the quarry owner, conceded that the mining activities begin at 5 am and end at night. He claimed having necessary permission for quarrying laterite stones and offered to negotiate with residents on revising the timings of mining operations. 

Pinto claimed that thousands of illegal quarries operate in Dakshina Kannada district. “Only a farmer like me, abiding by all the rules is often targeted,” he alleged. 

“When this issue was raised in SC/ST meeting convened by deputy commissioner, the latter had directed ITDP to submit a report. When Malavoor Gram Panchayat (GP) Panchayat Development Officer highlighted the woes of Koragas at a meeting PDOs, he was told only Mines department was empowered to shut it down,” Kiran recollected. 

Mines and Geology Department Deputy Director Niranjan admitted that unbridled quarrying violates permit conditions. He said he has directed a geologist to visit quarry site and close it down if it was found violating the conditions. Two days had passed and no geologist had visited the site, Kiran told DH when contacted.

There are 120 licensed laterite quarries in DK district and 116 in Udupi district, according to sources in district Mines and Geology department.

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