BENGALURU: Even as environmentalists, activists and former judges come heavily upon the issue of illegal mining operations in the ESZ (eco sensitive zone) of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), mining companies say they are prepared to move out if their operations fall within the notified area.
However, they say, in view of the lapse in the ESZ notification, the state forest department has been wrongly interpreting the default area of 10 kilometers to be the ESZ while the apex court clearly says there is no prohibition in mining activity within 10 kilometers till final notification comes. Mining companies who have the licence to operate, say that they are legally operating and are based outside the ESZ.
It is the 10-15 quarries who are illegally operating and have created all the confusion and controversy in the last few weeks. They say they are prepared to move out and shut shop if their companies fall within the ESZ, once the final notification is approved by the Central government.
One of the companies — Kushal Stone Crusher — is located in Shivanahalli village of Jigani hobli, Anekal taluk and claims that they have abided by all the existing norms.
A company statement says, “We openly declare to abide by the ESZ rules once the final notification is made by MoEF and the law that is applicable or binding to the vicinity of the area, will be followed.”
Speaking to TNIE, Kushal, the company representative stated, “We are outside the ESZ. In the background of the recent controversy followed by a lot of claims and allegations, we have come to the conclusion to abide by whatever law is enforced for this National Park and whatever is applicable to us. We have done a lot of investments.
We have till date followed all the prevailing laws. We will, however, require time as the company has taken loans that are pending or due and which were given on the basis of documents submitted by various departments.”
Wrong Interpretation Of Law
However, citing Supreme Court orders (case of Goa Foundation versus union of India) dated November 11, 2013, the representative said, “The apex court has not prohibited mining activities within 10km from boundaries of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. It is for the state government to decide in what manner mining leases are to be granted in future but the legality can be examined by the Court. So, with the draft notification of BNP lapsing and the Centre failing to notify, we have been abiding by the apex court’s orders.
However, the forest department has interpreted the law in a different manner in view of the lapse of the draft notification.” adds Kushal. The state forest department states that in view of delay in final notification of ESZ, MoEF has said the default area of 10km will be the eco sensitive zone.
The forest department has written umpteen letters (from 2015-2018) to the Department of Mines and Geology to initiate action against illegal operators in the Safe Zone. Vijay Nishanth, spearheading the agitation against illegal mining in ESZ of BNP says, “The mining firms are interpreting laws as per their convenience. Despite the letters, the Mines and Geology department have allowed new operators while there is no action on stopping illegal quarrying.”