Environmentalists say that at least 10 quarries are functioning close to its boundary

Wildlife population in the newly-formed Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Erode district, the fourth in the State, is facing threat from blue metal quarries.

Environmentalists say that at least 10 quarries are functioning close to the reserve’s boundary, where detonators are used for blasting rocks. This drives elephants out of the reserve leading to increased man-animal conflict.

K. Mohan Raj of Tamil Nadu Green Movement, who recently visited the reserve, said a quarry was functioning in Neithalapuram – Igalur villages, located 250 metres outside of reserve’s boundary. Another quarry was functioning at Gumtapuram, which is along the Biligirirangan Temple Tiger Reserve border in the neighbouring Karnataka , where an important elephant corridor is located.

Three quarries were functioning in Kongarapalayam – TN Palayam on the forest boundary. Similarly, at least half a dozen quarries and crushing units were functioning in the Bhavani Sagar Dam and Vilamundi Reserved Forest.

Three quarries were functioning in Siddankuttai and Sirumugai Range of Coimbatore forest division. Many of them were unauthorised quarries that have come up recently posing threat to wildlife, Mr. Mohan Raj said.

Villagers in the area complained that grazing lands have been taken over by quarry owners. Those living close to the quarries were affected by dust pollution. Continuous movement of trucks and heavy equipment led to heavy noise pollution as well. Several houses in the villages have developed cracks owing to blasts at the quarries, he said.

As per the recently-declared Ecologically Sensitive Zone notification, no activity detrimental to the sanctuary/national park or a tiger reserve should be allowed within 10 km radius of these areas.

However, this rule has not been followed in Sathyamangalam, Mr Mohan Raj said.

Forest Department officials said a good number of quarries were functioning even when the area was declared a Reserved Forest. The department had already sent a communication to the district administration that no new licence for starting quarries in the vicinity of the reserve be allowed. Similarly, the existing ones also would not be allowed to expand their activities closer to the reserve, officials said.

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