Mining company KIOCL is looking to convert its erstwhile township within the Kudremukh National Park into a “tourism destination”, and has called for an Expression of Interest (EoI) from companies with expertise in “running resorts/cottages” to lease out the existing infrastructure for five years.
However, the public sector company (formerly known as Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd.) “does not possess any rights” over the mining lease area after having stopped its iron ore mining operations in the national park in 2005 following a Supreme Court order, says Wildlife First, a non-governmental organisation, in a letter to the Chief Secretary to the State government.
According to the EoI, the township is “most suitable for film shooting and other tourist attractions” with existing infrastructure, including 1,700 residential quarters, 48 villas, guesthouse, sports and recreation centre, swimming pool, billiards room, gym, conference hall, tennis court, shopping complexes and a 50-acre park with a rose garden, fountains and aquarium. “The agency shall pay the monthly lease rent to KIOCL as quoted by them in the tender.”‘Not fully utilised’
Further the EoI states: “Due to the closure of the Kudremukh mine and subsequent transfer of manpower to other locations, the township has not been fully utilised. The KIOCL invites EoI from interested agencies for taking some of its existing quarters in the township on lease basis to develop and operate as a tourist destination.”
Kudremukh is a “great travel destination”, with wildlife, waterfalls and its proximity to Mangalore, which is 100 km away, it said.
Vinay Luthra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), told The Hindu that the mining area, whose lease has expired, is in the eco-sensitive zone of the national park, where tourism activities are highly regulated.
The KIOCL has not sought wildlife clearance either, a prerequisite for any such proposed project in this area, he said.
The KIOCL’s erstwhile mining lease area of 4,605 hectares lapsed in 1999 after which the company was granted two temporary working permissions to continue operations until 2005. By trying to sub-lease the land “the KIOCL is attempting to create rights over demised mining lease area within the limits of the Kudremukh National Park,” according to Wildlife First trustee Praveen Bhargav.
A representative from the company said the township, which had around 2,000 employees when mining operations were in full swing, now has a skeletal staff of 150 to maintain the existing infrastructure.