Panel on Bellary misses deadline

Panel on Bellary misses deadline

The Committee set up by the State government to submit a reclamation and rehabilitation (R&R) report has not only missed its deadline, but is also yet to arrive at any “concrete” recommendations to be made to the government. The State has to, in turn, give its response to the Supreme Court. 

The apex court had last month asked the Centre and State to immediately rectify the “extensive environmental damage” caused by mining companies in Bellary and prepare an environment impact assessment (EIA) and R&R report, respectively.

The Court, which had directed the authorities to ensure that Bellary is back to its “original state,” had given three months time for the reports to be furnished.

After the Court’s ruling (August 5), the State government issued an order on August 11, detailing the constitution of a Committee to submit the R&R report, which was given two weeks to submit the report.

The Committee comprises Director General of Environment Management and Policy Research Institute, R M N Sahai as the chairman and CCF (forest conservation) Vijaykumar Gogi; member secretary of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), S M Puttabudhi, and Joint Director of Mines and Geology department, Venugopal, as members.

Also, the Central Empowered Committee, with which the R&R committee is holding consultations, has recommended that the panel visit individual mines in the district, assess the damages and then draw up its recommendations.

Seeks extension

An extension had been sought to furnish the report, said Sahai, adding his team would require additional resources to deliver the report.

“The environmental damage caused in Bellary is horrendous and it requires a detailed study to put together the R&R report. The Committee has sought an extension apart from additional resources. We have had a series of meetings, but it has been difficult to arrive at a concrete decision or framework.

It is an accident-like situation in Bellary. It will also be difficult to bring back the district to its original state,” he said.

He said that it would have been better for the government to have constituted the Committee after the EIA report was submitted.

“We have, however, decided to coordinate with the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), which is conducting the EIA study, and put together the report,” added Sahai.

As per the terms of reference, the Committee was expected to undertake a field visit and submit its report within two weeks after consulting the departments of forest, mines and geology and KSPCB.

A comprehensive report was to be submitted about the action to be taken by the various agencies in restoring the degraded areas due to excessive mining in the district.

On August 5, while hearing the government of Andhra Pradesh v/s Obulapuram Mining Company Pvt Ltd case, the Supreme Court had directed that a macro-level EIA on Bellary be conducted by ICFRE, in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India and Forest Survey of India.

A macro-level EIA should also indicate whether the district of Bellary constitutes one single environment unit or more with different degrees of environmental degradation, the Court had said.

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