The National Green Tribunal set up the panel

An expert fact-finding committee set up by the National Green Tribunal (South Zone) in March to investigate into the legal status of 10,000 acres of Amrit Mahal Kaval [traditional grazing land] in Chitradurga, which have been allotted to research institutes, will submit their report in six weeks.

S. Ravichandra Reddy, a retired professor of ecology, Bangalore University, and committee member, told The Hindu that the team held public hearings last week and met representatives from 20 villages surrounding the contentious land. The public hearings were held in Dodda Ullarthi, Bharmasagara, Nayakanahatti and Neralagunte. Science and defence establishments, including Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Indian Institute of Science, have been allotted land in the Amrit Mahal Kavals of Chitradurga’s Challakere taluk.

The expert committee was set up by the National Green Tribunal following a petition contending that the transfer of the 10,000 acres of land to research facilities, including a nuclear enrichment centre and a drone testing facility, “will directly and irreversibly affect … communities and biodiversity of the area..” therefore violating the Karnataka Forest Act 1963 and Karnataka Forest Rules 1969.

Meanwhile, S. Thippeswamy, MLA of Molakalmuru, has, in a letter to the National Green Tribunal expressed concern that the transfer of the land to science institutes will restrict access to 60 surrounding villages that depend on the traditional grazing land. “Several tribal and backward communities depend upon this grazing land for a livelihood, including members of Hakki Pikki, Lambani and Kuruba communities,” he writes.

At a press conference on Thursday, petitioner Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group, said that not a single gram panchayat member was consulted before the decision was taken by the government to divert the said land.

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