BENGALURU: Cracking down on irregularities in mining operations of the state, 10 mining companies in Thammnaikanahalli, located in the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), will be closed by Tuesday evening. They also face a huge penalty of approximately Rs 80 crore. Earlier in April, the mining operations of five cos in Shivanahalli were closed, however, the penalties are yet to be worked out in their case.
The Joint Survey and spot inspection done by both the state Mines and Geology (M&G) and Forest departments have now revealed that all 15 mining companies have done excess mining in the 1-10 KM zone of BNP, thereby violating mining, environmental and forest laws, SC orders and guidelines. Most of these companies are located at 1.3/1.5 to 3.5 kilometers from BNP's boundary but none of them are within the one kilometer safe zone.
Not only excess mining has been done by each of these 15 companies but four major lapses have been observed by the joint survey team.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Mines and Geology Director N S Prasanna Kumar said, "The four glaring lapses include - no maintenance of boundary stones thereby, mining is done anywhere and everywhere in this area. Further, neither the Quarry plans nor the Pollution norms have been followed. Lastly, the quantity permitted has been violated - production is more - the cut volume measurement is very high compared to the Quarry plan. The year-wise quantity permitted that is the production limit cap fixed as per EC has been totally violated."
The survey has revealed similar observations and violations across the 10 companies at Thammanaikanhalli as they have exceeded well and above the Mineral Dispatch Permit (MDP). So they are now facing five times the penalty which works to around RS 80 crore. The other five companies whose operations are shut - the penalty amount is yet to be assessed. The M&G Director added, "All these findings will be placed in the Karnataka High Court as we have sought some more time to collate and submit it. The offenses includes not just basic violations of Quarry plan but also other serious offenses. All 10 cos will shut operations by Tuesday evening."
Need for strict action
With glaring violations, now each department - be it Mines and Geology, Forest and Environment, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and others have to take action against these companies. The Mines Director adds, "We have taken action, now other departments have to follow suit. Our joint survey has shown - creation of roads and transportation in the Elephant Corridor as also waste dumping in the ESZ resulting in environmental and forest violations."
On their part, CCF Bengaluru Circle Sashwathi Mishra clarifies, "As per Supreme Court orders and existing guidelines, mining companies located within 10 KMS of BNP's boundary will have to be closed as the final notification of BNP is still pending. So M&G department has to take action against these cos for violating the norms."
Expressing satisfaction on the outcome of the survey, Vijay Nishanth, urban conservationist said, "Our reiteration that the mining companies have thrown all norms to the dustbin has been vindicated. The offenders need to be prosecuted for quarrying indiscriminately for so many years now. They have not only destroyed the elephant corridor but have also not taken any mitigation measures to safeguard the health of the people in the 47 villages."