KARWAR: Belekeri port has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
But Belekeri village, the worst-hit by the activities related to export of iron ore, has escaped the attention of the men in power.
“The hustle and bustle of the iron ore-laden lorries passing through the village has created havoc. A number of representations to the district administration, port authorities and the Pollution Control Board to control the activities have been gathering dust. As a last resort, a few villagers have moved the High Court by filing a PIL to save the village from further deterioration,” Dr MM Sayyed, who is practising medicine in the village for the past 40 years, said.
Sayyed said as many as 3,500 people in Belekeri and neighbouring villages have been suffering from allergic asthma and lung-related problems.
Some have been suffering from heart diseases due to sleeplessness caused by the noise of lorries. At least 10 villagers, including himself, have undergone heart surgery.
An appeal to the district administration to conduct a health survey of Belekeri and neighbouring villages has fallen on deaf ears. He pointed out that a foot bridge across Belekeri road has been severely damaged by the continuous movement of the lorries and the culverts in the village are in a poor condition. During rains, the water gushes into the houses.
The port department, on its part, says the maintenance of the road leading to the port is entrusted with the stakeholders of the port. The promise to build a bypass from the NH to Belekeri port is still on paper.
The house of Digambar Naik (name changed), on the roadside, looks painted with layers of ore fines. Even if the windows and doors are kept closed, dust penetrates inside through the gaps in the tiles.
Iron ore can be found on the TV sets, refrigerator, food articles, water and milk, he says.
The yield in coconut and mango trees has reduced since the past five years, when the port activities began.
Many trees have stopped flowering, he points out. The exporters pay a paltry compensation to the villagers to silence them, he says.
Similar is the story of other villagers who have houses close to the road. After day’s hard work, each labourer gets only Rs 70. Any demand for more wages would push them out of work. They are at the mercy of the middlemen always.
Fishermen complain that the continuous movement of ore-laden barges have affected their activities.
The suspended particles of iron ore in the sea have led to fish mortality and decrease in catch. Land has been reclaimed from the sea to build jetties by the exporters, affecting tidal movement and resulted in large scale sea erosion, they aver.