ROURKELA: The ecological restoration of Purunapani Limestone and Dolomite Quarry of the Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) near Birmitrapur town of Sundargarh district has transformed the area into a tropical forest eco-system. The quarry was not in use for the last 19 years.
Sources said since the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) did not wish to forego its land and mining lease rights of Purunapani mine spread over 230.5 hectare, it successfully fought multiple legal battles between 2006 and 2016.
Following a decision of the SAIL’s board of directors, mining at Purunapani was stopped from March 1, 2004 due to inferior quality of limestone not suitable for manufacturing of steel. Acting on an eco-restoration plan for areas degraded by Over Burden Dumps (OBDs), mining benches and voids, SAIL signed an agreement in 2005 with the department of Bio-technology (DBT) and Centre for Environment Management of Degraded Eco-system (CEMDE) to enhance the bio-diversity and replenish the ecosystem of the mine. The project was implemented till 2020 by a multi-disciplinary team comprising academicians and research students of University of Delhi.
It is learnt a large area of around 200 acre comprising OBD, mine cut benches and slopes has been developed into a three-storey tropical forest ecosystem with establishment of vast swathes of grassland using 15 species of grasses and three lakh trees of 70 native forest species.
The native forest community trees include bamboo, wood and fruit-bearing trees and a community of plants which support host sericulture (Tussar silkworm). SAIL sources said the newly restored forest has become home to various types of native birds including Indian Parrot, Common Myna, Bulbul and Kingfisher.
The vegetation of OBD has removed the possibility of mobilisation of heavy metals and soil erosion. This apart, a 30-metre deep mine reservoir spread over 200 hectare has been transformed into a productive water body.