Muralidhara Khajane

The company has been asked to make available Rs. 25 crores

The court has asked the KIOCL to grant funds in five years The Environment Ministry has been asked to prepare an eco-restoration plan It will set up a committee to monitor the implementation of the plan

HASSAN: In May 2001, K.M. Chinnappa, trustee of Wildlife First trustee, along with the Legal Action for Wildlife and Environment, New Delhi, filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court seeking a directive to the KIOCL (Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited) to stop mining in leased areas, including the Kudremukh National Park (KNP). The court, on October 30, 2002, ordered the KIOCL to stop operations. The order came into force on Saturday.

After the court gave its decision, the KIOCL sought a clarification and appealed for a review of the judgment on the basis of the new provisions of the Mineral Concession Rules, which was amended in April 2003. However, the court rejected the plea.

The company also told the court about a "need to take up mining in 54.01 hectares of land to stabilise the slopes". A hearing has been scheduled for January.

After two decades of efforts, environmentalists have succeeded in forcing the KIOCL to stop operations. Now, the company has to pay attention to restoration of the environs of Kudremukh.

The Supreme Court, in its order, said the Ministry of Environment and Forests should prepare an eco-restoration plan for the region, and the KIOCL should make funds available for the implementation of the plan. The company was told to deposit Rs. 25 crores with the Ministry over five years for initiating measures for the protection of the KNP and other regions. The Ministry will set up a committee to monitor the implementation of the restoration plan.

Sources in the KIOCL said the company is committed to accomplishing its obligation, and over nine lakh saplings have been planted in areas affected by mining.

The Tunga-Bhadra Ulisi Horata Okkuta alleged that the company has failed to comply with some of the court directives on restoration. President of the organisation Kalkuli Vittal Hegde alleged that the company highlighted the plight of workers only when it became evident that it would have to stop mining. (The KIOCL had 2,000 employees.) He said the court had not ordered the closure of the KIOCL. It asked it to stop mining in the Kudremukh region. Although, there was enough scope for the company to take up mining in other regions in the State, it insisted on continuing operations in Kudremukh, he alleged.

The company is hoping that the Government will allow it to start mining at Ramanadurga in Bellary district. According to sources, Ramanadurga has over 700 million tonnes of ore, of which the KIOCL can use 200 million tonnes. If the company is allowed to use the resource, it will be able to sustain itself for 20 years.

It is learnt that the company sent a proposal in this regard to the Union and State governments in 2000.

Mr. Hegde said his organisation is focussing on restoration of the environment around Kudremukh. The Bhadra river is polluted and needs immediate attention. The okkuta will organise a convention of environmentalists on January 20 to discuss the problem. It will also urge the Government to rehabilitate the company workers, he added.

(Concluded)

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