Greens wave red flag to stone crushers' ordinance

Greens wave red flag to ordinance on stone crushers

Last year, the department collected a meagre Rs 37 crore as penalty from quarries for illegal lifting and transportation of minerals.

An ordinance promulgated by the government pertaining to stone crushers and quarrying amidst the Covid-19 pandemic has come under fire over environmental concerns.

The Karnataka Stone Crushers (Amendment) Ordinance extends the licence term of stone crushing units from five to 20 years, while also allowing the sale or transfer of such licences.

Critics say the ordinance did little to prevent the exploitation of natural resources and that it did not address concerns regarding its environmental impact. It will only serve vested interests, they allege.

The extension of licence term is retrospective in nature, subject to payment of an annual regulation fee.

The government tabled the Karnataka Regulation of Stone Crushers (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the Legislative Assembly during the recent session, amid a walkout by the Opposition. The Bill was passed in the House, but the Covid-19 outbreak forced the session to be curtailed and it could not be sent to the Legislative Council for passage. Therefore, the government promulgated the ordinance on March 31.

Environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy accused the government of enacting such an ordinance in haste only to promote the exploitation of natural resources. “What was the need for such an ordinance when there was a lockdown?” he said, questioning the logic to extend the licence period from five to 20 years.

Residents’ concerns

“The Ordinance does little to protect nature and does not discuss any provisions to address massive complaints by residents living close to such units,” he said. The impact of nano particulate matter from crushers was immense, Reddy pointed out. 

Sources said the ordinance was pushed at the behest of a new minister inducted into Yediyurappa’s Cabinet, who lobbied for its provisions.

Mines & Geology Minister C C Patil told DH that the term of the licences was extended to “prevent harassment” of licence-holders as they had to renew them every five years. “Most of the crushers are happy with the ordinance,” he said.

On recurring complaints about such units functioning close to buffer zones of reserve forests, Patil said that the government was at liberty to stop quarrying or stone crushing activity, if they violated the law.