A comprehensive ecological report on the ‘illegal’ diversion of grasslands (Amrit Mahal Kaval) in Chitradurga was submitted to the Expert Committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal last week by the non-profit organisation Environment Support Group (ESG).
“Around 10,000 acres of biodiversity-rich grasslands, used as pastures in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga district were diverted by the then deputy commissioner of Chitradurga, Amlan Aditya Biswas for various defence, industrial, infrastructure, institutional and commercial purposes,” the report stated.
However, ESG, the applicant seeking protection of grasslands submitted that the projects were never intended to be located in Challakere Amrit Mahal Kavals. The original decision was to acquire agricultural lands at various locations in Hiriyur and Challakere taluks.
The ESG submitted that Justice N Y Hanumanthappa, the then Member of Parliament representing Chitradurga constituency, preferred to promote the diversion of Challakere Amrit Mahal Kavals over acquisition of private agricultural lands.
“In his letter to Union Minister for Defence A K Anthony on 30 March, 2007, Hanumanthappa claimed that the process of acquiring agricultural land in the villages would be time consuming, would involve huge amount of compensation and may result in litigation,” the report said.
The report further stated that Biswas did not reveal the fact that alternative lands were already selected for the proposed project and the process had reached an advanced stage, including negotiation for settlement with the project-affected farmers.
Leo Saldanha who is representing the case said, “Though these decisions may have had the Cabinet approval, the entire exercise was undertaken in violation of various laws and without involving any of the local elected governments, local MLAs, and relevant departments dealing with forests, lakes, agriculture, animal husbandry and horticulture.” Moreover, the report, quoting a government letter, stated that the state allotted more land in the area for the Karnataka State Reserve Police (350 acres) and the Commando Training Centre (500 acres), which are in addition to the lands allocated to the Karnataka Housing Board (50 acres) and Karnataka State Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (50 acres).