Temple in peril as mining set to restart in Sandur

The state government has given the nod for restarting mining in Swamimalai forest range.

The mountains of Swamimalai forest range in Sandur, which were recovering from the devastation of illegal mining, are set to be reduced to dust in the coming days, as the state government has virtually given a green signal for restarting mining in the area.

The nod has put the 8th century Parvathi Kartikeya Temple along with several endangered animals at risk. Popularly known as Kumaraswamy Temple, the heritage monument had withstood illegal mining, thanks to a 1978 notification that banned mining in 2 km radius of protected monuments. 

However, in the wake of the Supreme Court allowing the re-auctioning of the ‘C’ category mines, the state government withdrew the 1978 rule in 2015, which has opened the door for big companies to exploit the mineral-rich hills.

Of the two applications for mining, the state forest department has said no to mining in 393 acres sought by the National Mineral Development Corporation. However, the department has given its green signal for the diversion of 71 acres of Kumaraswamy Hill, situated within 500 metres of the temple, following the new auction by the Mines and Geology Department. 

Interestingly, the assessment from the forest department notes that the area is home to 13 animals, including leopard, jackal, four-horned antelope and monitor lizard classified as vulnerable, and the endangered pangolin. 

The Regional Empowered Committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has now recommended to the central expert committee for diversion of the land. “The recommendation is not final. The expert committee and the ministry reserve the right to look into the issue and cancel all recommendations,” Avinash Kanfade, member of the committee, told DH.

Activist Sreeshaila Aladahalli, however, told DH that efforts have been on to bend the rules for big companies. “The 1978 notification was withdrawn to ensure that people living in areas like Hampi are not affected by the stringent clause but it is being used to allow mining.

Forest land is routinely classified as revenue land to award mining contracts. The Supreme Court has directed the government to look into these matters before awarding lease,” he noted.

Rajender Kumar Kataria, in-charge secretary of Mines and Geology Department, said they were awaiting a report from an expert committee which is framing rules for the Kumaraswamy Temple.

“The government will go by the committee’s recommendation. A decision will be taken after ensuring that mining will not harm heritage or environment in the area,” he said.

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