BENGALURU: In a major victory for environmental activism, the Mines and Geology department (M&G) suspended mining operations of five companies near Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) in view of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) reiterating its 2014 guidelines that no mining operations can be allowed within 10 kilometres of the boundary of a national park when the final notification of the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) is pending.
Added to this, the M&G department has issued notices to six more companies as new cases have been cited by the forest department for suspending operations. In this case, notices will be issued as a joint survey is also going on which will be completed in the next few days.
The five mining leases whose operations were shut were allowed to operate as per the earlier Karnataka government Safe Zone order that permitted leases to operate beyond one kilometre of the park boundary.
However, recently the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has circulated a letter saying that wherever the ESZ final notification has been declared, the limit fixed as per this notification will be followed. However, for those where the ESZ has not been declared, the 2014 guidelines has to be strictly followed. With the ESZ notification for BNP yet to be declared, the 2014 MoEF order will have to be complied with. They will have to get Environmental Clearance from the National Board of Wildlife also.
A senior forest official adds, "In this background, the existing mining companies within 10 kms need to get clearances immediately and till then, they have to suspend their mining operations."
N S Prasanna Kumar, Director, Department of Mines and Geology, told The New Indian Express, "Three leases are of Kushal Stones Company and they are based in different survey numbers. The other two are individual operators. Mining operations have been completely shut down in all the five leases since then."
The director added, "To withdraw the NOC immediately, we have to follow the principles of natural justice. However, we will issue a notice to these six companies within seven days."
Forest officials further say that it is not so easy to get clearances from the National Board of Wildlife. "We were successful in keeping away mining companies as per the Safe Zone order of 1991 which stipulated that no operations can be carried within one kilometre from boundary. This itself took a lot of efforts and our people were harassed physically and mentally, waging a war with the kingpin of quarry operators — the late Narayanappa who lived just outside Bannerghatta and controlled everything."