Involvement of politicians has rendered officials helpless: activists

Karwar: The construction of jetties at the Belekeri Port in alleged violation of the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) Act has come to light. Activists from non-governmental organisations who took presspersons to the port, an important hub of iron ore export activity in Karnataka, revealed the alleged highhanded behaviour of powerful politicians who are building jetties in defiance of the law.

The politicians, who have been allotted space at the port to build jetties by the State Government, are allegedly building them without obtaining permission from the port authorities and the departments concerned.

This display of defiance by the politicians has rendered the officials helpless, according to the non-governmental organisations.

Boulders have been thrown into the sea and the entire area has been filled with red soil, they said. This is a violation of the CRZ rules, said Madhav Naik, a social activist. Though quarrying in the district was banned following a judgment of the Supreme Court, quarrying is on in the forests of Ankola and Karwar taluks, he added.

The Forests Department has not been able to take action, said Ganapati Kharvi, a resident.

The boulders were brought from these illegal quarries and thrown into the sea, he alleged.

When contacted, Conservator of Forests Subhash Malkade said that he would ask the department officials to investigate the allegations.

But the port director Ganesh said that the construction of jetties being taken up by a Hospet-based company reportedly owned by a ruling party MLA is going on without the permission of the port authorities.

He said that he had asked the port authorities to file a police complaint against the company officials.

Biliye, a top official of the Belekeri Port, said that he went to the Ankola police station to file a complaint against the company.

However, he said, the police inspector there did not accept the complaint saying that he (Mr. Biliye) was not an appropriate authority to file the complaint.

The police inspector, however, refuted this allegation saying none from the port authorities had visited the police station to file a complaint.

When contacted, CRZ official Hosamani said he was not aware of the construction activities and said those involved in it might have obtained permission from higher authorities.

When asked why the port director had asked his officials to lodge a police complaint, Mr. Hosamani said he would look into the matter.

Last year, a Bangalore-based company had begun construction of a jetty near the one being built now. But it was stopped after the intervention of the Lokayukta.

“We cannot do anything. Powerful people are involved in it. A former Chief Minister whose family is waging a protracted battle against the mining lobby in Karnataka too was allotted 10 thousand square metres of land in the port area to build a jetty.

“Construction will begin in the first week of March, though they have not obtained permission under CRZ rules.

“When Opposition and ruling party members are hand-in-glove [in carrying out such activities] what can we do,” according to a senior forest official.

The fishermen in the area are a worried lot. Such activity will affect environment even killing rare species of fish, they said and demanded that such activities be brought to a halt immediately.