‘Area under cultivation has fallen and livestock population come down’

The indiscriminate and unscientific mining in Bellary district and blatant violation of the provisions of the Mines and Mineral (Regulation and Development) Act has had a serious impact on the socioeconomic conditions of people. It has led to severe environmental, health and other problems, including reduction in the area under cultivation and decline in the livestock population.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) in its latest report, presented in the Legislative Assembly, points out several violations of the Act in the district.

The report said that high air pollution levels contributed to health problems such as respiratory infections and tuberculosis in the mining taluks of Hospet and Sandur.

Numbers say it

The number of people suffering from respiratory diseases in Hospet taluk went up from around 4,700 in 2007 to 10,369 in 2010. In Sandur taluk, the number went up from 13,165 in 2007 to 20,251 in 2010. The number of people suffering from tuberculosis in Hospet taluk went up from 55 in 2006 to 95 in 2010 and in Sandur taluk from 46 to 88 during the same period.

Air pollution levels have also risen consistently in Bellary district as per the data obtained from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board.

The CAG report said brazen mining activities had a serious impact on the animal husbandry sector too, with the population of cows and buffalos recording negative growth rate of 38 per cent and 43 per cent respectively in Bellary taluk, 23 per cent and 56 per cent respectively in Hospet taluk and 10 per cent and 5 per cent respectively in Sandur taluk between 2003 and 2007.

Quoting officials of the Veterinary Department, the CAG said livestock population had declined in villages affected by mining owing to reduction in the area of grazing land, nutritional deficiency disorders due to non-availability of quality fodder, high levels of manganese content in water and soil, contamination of water sources and fodder due to toxic materials used in mining activities and increased susceptibility to diseases of respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems.

The CAG report said that the area under cultivation in Bellary district had declined from 4,79,188 hectares in 2005-06 to 4,36,067 hectares in 2009-10, the area of barren land increased from 81,036 hectares in 2005-06 to 1,24,157 hectares in 2009-10 and the area under minor irrigation had come down from 2324.8 hectares in 2001-02 to 2,193.51 hectares in 2010-11.

According to an Agriculture Department report, large tracts of farm land had been rendered unusable due to dust deposits on plants, affecting productivity.

The reduction in the cultivable area and crop loss was also due to digging of land and dumping of iron ore, which led to the loss of fertile top soil. Unscientific mining and transportation of ore also caused large-scale dust deposits on plants, the report said.

The CAG, in its recommendations, wanted the government to evolve a participatory approach by involving local people after a thorough study of the likely impact on life, lifestyle and livelihood of the communities for greater common good before grant of mining leases.

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