BENGALURU: The Regional Empowered Committee (REC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests has recommended the state government’s proposal for diversion of reserve forest land in Ballari district to install a ‘closed pipe conveyor belt’ for transportation of ore instead of using trucks that causes huge congestion and pollution. The committee approved it for a period of 30 years with the usual conditions and also imposed additional conditions.
After examining the proposal and the site inspection report of the Conservator of Forests (Central), the REC observed that the ore will be transported from the lease yard to the JSW Plant in a closed pipe conveyor belt which will in fact, replace lorries/trucks. This will not only decongest roads but also reduce pollution. Further, they opined that the proposal is in line with the Supreme Court directives (order dated 21.3.2017) for installation of such systems in steel plants.
The additional conditions that have been recommended are — the steel company will have to safeguard wildlife and ensure free movement of wild animals during the night, so the transportation of ore through the conveyor belt shall be restricted from sunrise to sunset only. Since DRDO establishment is located within 2 km from the proposed belt, the company shall submit NoC from the DRDO authority before Stage-II clearance. Finally, suitable soil moisture conservation measures and plantation of native herbs, scrubs, and trees shall be taken up on both sides of the conveyor belt up to a distance of 15 metres at the cost of the company.
In March this year, the state government had submitted a proposal to MoEF for diversion of 1.645 hectares of forest land in Ballari district for construction of a pipeline conveyor belt corridor from Nandihalli yard to JSW plant in Vidyanagar. This area falls under the protected 250 metres buffer area of major water bodies like Narihalla Reservoir.
Since JSW had proposed a system that involved closed pipes for transporting ore, the forest department had opined that there would be no spillage of ore in the water bodies of the reserve forests. However, the department had said that sufficient care and precaution needs to be taken by the company to ensure that the project ran with zero effect on water quality.
According to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), the tenure was for a period of 30 years. Since this proposal does not form part of any mining lease, the period of diversion needs to be deliberated and decided upon as per the prevailing guidelines and norms. Further, the state forest department recommended soil conservation measures in the proposed area. Since it involves erection of column structures and digging of earth - the extracted soil needs to be compacted and stored properly and further ensured that the earth does not erode with run-off rain water.Commenting on the clearance of the proposal, wildlife conservationist Santosh Martin from Ballari says this is a high wildlife area with leopards and sloth bears.