Illegal mining destroys forest cover in Karnataka
Vicky Nanjappa reports on how Karnataka is fast losing its flora to mining
Illegal mining has wiped out 2,800 acres of forest land in Karnataka, according to the probe report by Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde.
The state alone accounts for over 10 per cent of the total amount of land lost to mining across the country.
The 356-page report prepared by Justice Hegde has spelt out the destruction of forest cover to expand the illegal mining business in the state. But the report continues to gather dust as the Karnataka legislative assembly refuses to touch it.
During his investigations in Bellary and Hospet, Justice Hegde found as many as 98 cases of encroachment. The probe was conducted with the help of the forest department.
Image: The mines are eating into the forest cover
Waste material from mining dumped in forests
The probe found that illegal miners had constructed tarred roads within the forest belt. More shocking was the revelation that waste material from mining activities was being dumped in these forests, says the report.
The report does not name any particular person or company. The Lokayukta is currently carrying out a second probe and the final report is expected to name the persons and companies which have been trespassing into the forest area and carrying out illegal mining.
This report had prompted Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh to shoot off a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, expressing his regret over the inaction of the forest department in protecting its reserved forests.
Image: The forest area untouched so far
Congress chief minister helped the multi-crore racket
The Lokayukta report, while not naming anybody directly, observes that a former Congress chief minister helped carry on the multi-crore racket. A reference to this effect was made against the former chief minister to Karnataka Governor H Bharadwaj, who ruled that the state shall not proceed against him for want of evidence.
Justice Hegde explains that when the miners apply for a lease they are supposed to provide a sketch of the area that they would be mining in.
"During the probe, we have found that the sketch of the area that is produced and the area in which they mine have no connection with each other," he said.
The probe has found that though the miners obtain permission for certain areas, they go on to mine in forest areas which are prohibited, as their documents are never cross checked by concerned officials.
Image: The mining industry thrives in Bellary
Mining has disturbed the ecological balance
The effects of illegal mining on the forest areas have been disastrous and have wiped out the population of sloth bears in the area. In the Sandur reserve forest near Bellary, where illegal mining is most rampant, not a single sloth bear can be found today.
The bears have either died or migrated to nearby forests, say forest officials.
The illegal mining has also disturbed the ecological balance in Bellary, which has faced droughts in the last few years. Medicinal plants, which were once found in abundance, have stopped growing due to the blasting and digging activities continuously going on in these forests.
Image: Mining in progress in Bellary