‘Area under cultivation has gone down significantly’
Upholding the findings of the Sagar Dhara Committee of the CERNA Foundation of Hyderabad on the impact of iron ore mining on environment in Sandur taluk of Bellary district, the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India in its report has said: “High level of pollution contributed to the increase in incidence of tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases in Hospet and Sandur.”
The CAG report was tabled during the winter session of the Assembly held at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belgaum last month.
The CERNA Foundation of Hyderabad conducted the study on the impact of iron ore mining in Sandur taluk on the request by the Samaj Parivarthana Samudaya, petitioner in the illegal mining case in the Supreme Court.
Mr. Sagar Dhara, head of the foundation, in the report, said that air pollution affected crops, water and livestock. Iron ore dust has increased the risk of cancer in people, the report said, adding that “the incidence of the respiratory diseases in Hospet and Sandur taluks showed an upward trend due to air pollution caused by mining activities.” The report also said that there is an increase in the incidence of various diseases in livestock.
“The regulating agencies of the State and Union governments have failed in protecting the environment and people in Sandur,” the Sagar Dhara Committee report added.
The CAG suggested that before granting mining leases the government should conduct a thorough study for the greater common good on the likely impact of mining on life, lifestyle and livelihood of the communities concerned. The CAG favoured designing a participatory approach by involving local population.
According to the CAG report, the area under cultivation in Bellary went down from 4,79,188 hectares in 2005-06 to 4,36,067 hectares in 2009-10. Consequently the area of barren land increased at an alarming rate.
Similarly information obtained from Water Resources Department revealed that the area under irrigation decreased from 2,324.80 hectares in 2001-02 to 2,192.51 hectares in 2010-11.
The CAG report stated that the prosecution of 123 employees under the Child Labour Act in Hospet and Sandur circles involving 167 children is indicative of employment of children below 14 years of age in mines. “Evidently promotion of child labour apart from being unlawful would affect the sustained development of society”, the report observed.
Criticising the Karnataka government for its failure in implementing the guidelines suggested by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in its report, the CAG observed that laxity resulted in “mining not compatible with preservation of environment”.
“Director of Mines and Geology did not monitor adherence to the condition by the lessee prescribed by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)”
The CAG recommended the government to take necessary measures for proper accounting of plantations raised by lessees and monitor their periodical survival status in coordination with the Department of Forests.