BENGALURU: The Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (KIOCL), which had sub-leased 30 buildings and a guest house in the eco-sensitive zone of Kudremukh National Park to a private group in May 2014, is in the dock now as it has been held as a clear case of violation - transgressing both the Supreme Court orders and Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) guidelines.
Upholding the contentions of Wildlife First (the petitioners), Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Forest, Ecology and Environment, T M Vijay Bhaskar has said in his order that the KIOCL buildings and guest house (Sahyadri Bhavan) leased to the Alva Group are located within the eco-sensitive zone thereby violating the 2011 ESZ guidelines and the draft notification for ESZ in 2016.
It may be recalled that the ACS was directed to pass a reasoned and speaking order on this issue within four months by the Karnataka High Court on July 22.
Holding due hearings in September-October and giving equal opportunities to all parties concerned including Wildlife First, Alvas, KIOCL, Forest and Revenue Department, the ACS passed the orders on October 26.
The ACS has further directed the state Chief Wildlife Warden to take necessary action as no statutory permission was sought from relevant authorities for the project.
Futher, Vijay Bhaskar has observed that KIOCL’s issuance of work order and rental contract; their inaction to shut down the resort in spite of orders from Kudremukh Notified Area Committee on January 12 shows how MoEF guidelines and apex court’s orders were violated.
The Deputy Commissioner of Chikkamagaluru has also come in for scathing remarks from the ACS with respect to taking possession of revenue land and buildings back from KIOCL.
“The application filed by DC in JMFC, Chikkamagaluru was dismissed for non-prosecution in 2014 and 2016. This shows his utter carelessness in safeguarding government’s interests as KIOCL must be dispossessed of the 277 hectares of revenue lands as per law. The revenue department is further bound by the apex court’s orders in transfer of buildings under the Central Empowered Committee’s guidelines,” the order said.
On its part, Wildlife First said KIOCL should be immediately dispossessed of the entire portion of the demised mining lease area held by them. Praveen Bhargav, its trustee, adds, “I urge the DC to initiate necessary and time-bound action to dispossess the company of this area which has been in its possession even 10 years after the expiry of the time limit granted by the apex court.”
Mohan Alva, chairman of the Alva’s Education Trust, said they had closed down the health centre on March 14 as per orders. He added, “I am not interested in taking this issue further as it has involved lot of problems, investment and issues with KIOCL.”
Speaking to Express, Vijay Bhaskar said he had passed the orders keeping in view the directions of the High Court and if the parties concerned were not satisfied, they could file their appeal in the High Court.