Santosh Patnaik

Granting of the status w.ill put a stop to mining of bauxite ore

Chintapalle is one of the richest biosphere reserves in the country: Samata

VISAKHAPATNAM: The proposal to declare Chintapalle reserve forest as a biosphere reserve (BR) by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) seems to have been put in the cold storage due to pressure from the mining lobby.

The granting of BR status would have put a full-stop to the plans of AP Mineral Development Corporation to dig bauxite ore from the dense forests in Chintapalle area in the district for supply to the alumina refinery proposed by Anrak Aluminium Limited, a company in which Ras Al-Khaimah, a constituent of UAE is a major stake holder.

Union Minister of State of Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh stated in Rajya Sabha on Monday that they had 16 BR designated areas which included Nilgiris and Sundarbands. The Minister had proposed BR in Chintapalle and Seshachalam forests in Chittoor and Kadapa districts in June 2009 at a review meeting with the Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy at Hyderabad. It seems there was no serious attempt from the State Government for suitable follow-up action.

“It is a very sad development. Chintapalle is one of the richest biosphere reserves in the country,” Samata executive director Rebbapragda Ravi told The Hindu on Tuesday.

Mr. Ravi, who is a member of the joint committee set up by Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Tribal Affairs to review implementation of Forest Rights Act, said mining lobby which had keen interest to loot bauxite reserves in Visakhapatnam and East Godavari, might have resisted the move to give BR status to Chintapalle.

Declaration of BR area would have prevented the local communities in exploiting natural resources by indulging in podu (shifting cultivation by burning plants atop hillocks) and introduced steps for alternate livelihood avenues. This also would have led to funding from UNESCO to protect genetic elements.

As per MoEF guidelines, a BR area must contain an effectively protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation and the core area should be typical of a bio-geographical unit and large enough to sustain viable populations representing all tropic levels.