With Veerappan Long Gone, Granite Lobby Plunders Border Villages
MYSURU: The recent attack on Chamarajnagar DC A M Kunjappa allegedly by those involved in quarrying has revealed an ugly truth.
Illegal quarrying activities, which had almost stopped during forest brigand Veerappan’s time in the district, seems to have returned with full force. The unabated activities running on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border have become a cause of worry.
Environmentalists and NGOs are demanding steps to stop illegal mining here. Many believe that the attempt to check these activities resulted in the attack on the DC.
Chamarajnagar district with 51 per cent forest cover has Bandipur Tiger reserve, BR Tiger Reserve and Malamahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary attached to Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. Mining activities have been damaging the ecology in the region, greens allege.
The quarrying activities were stopped during Veerappan’s time. The brigand had abducted Ramamurthy, son of a leading granite firm owner Sampangiramaiah. The state government which had come to know that Veerappan extracted money from granite units, had banned mining. Later, the government permitted resumption of mining activities, issued fresh licences and leases after the brigand’s death.
With not enough staff to check the increase in movement of trucks carrying granite without valid permits, the police have stepped up vigil and checking of vehicles in the past three months. They kept a vigil on quarry units that have failed to take the government’s nod.
Mining activities are thriving in Kothalavadi, Arakalavadi, Jothigowdanapura, Shivapura, Punajanur and other places. This has caused extensive damage to the ecology of Western Ghats near Yelandur, Santhemarahalli, Poonachi and Hoogyam.
● Activists say illegal mining is rampant in Kothalavadi, Arakalavadi, Jothigowdanapura, Yaragamaballi.
● Only 53 firms operating with valid environment clearances, says activist Punajanur Doreswamy
● Granite is exported from Chennai and Tuticorin ports
Quarry owners Win Confidence of Villagers
To win the goodwill of the local population and carry out their business, quarry owners fund construction of temples or religious places and panchayat elections so that the villagers would not come in their way. They say mining and quarrying have generated jobs for those who were hit by the closure of granite firms. “Why should they run the quarry causing damage to eco system leading to deforestation when the workers have alternatives for their livelihood?” asks an activist.
Best Black Granite
Granite from Jothigowdanapura and Kothalavadi has a high demand in Japan, China, Europe and the US. Many companies export granite and finished granite products like slabs and blocks to other countries via Chennai and Tuticorin ports. A leading exporter said they could not export granite without valid permits. However, he disclosed that local companies export it without paying tax to the government. The exporters want the government to come up with stringent regulations to check unhealthy business practices.