Environmentalist Leo Saldanha has moved the National Green Tribunal

The conversion of around 10,000 acres of Amrit Mahal Kaval land (pastoral land) in Chitradurga district of Karnataka for development purposes has been challenged before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Bench. It is also alleged that in violation of norms, the land has been transferred by the State government to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

In an application before the Bench here, Leo F. Saldanha, an environmental activist from Bangalore, prayed the NGT to direct the authorities of the State and Central governments to maintain the Amrit Mahal Kaval land free from any diversion/ encroachments and sought to remove any civil construction illegally erected on the land and restore the land to their earlier state. During 2008-2010, the Karnataka government, through the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Chitradurga district, began to divert almost all the Amrit Mahal Kaval land in Challakere taluk to a variety of urban, industrial, infrastructure development, research and defence-related projects. After giving an overview of the allocation of land, Mr. Saldanha said: “It is evident that a total of 9,723 acres of forest land has been diverted to non-forest purposes. The diversion of land is in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.”

In his application, he also alleged that the authorities had not considered the fact that the Amrit Mahal Kaval land are statutorily recognised forests as per the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963. “The diversion of land will cause serious impact to the environment, ecology and to the local pastoral and agrarian communities who have no other source of livelihood. The authorities have not considered the fact that Amrit Mahal Kaval land is the main source of fodder for the cattle reared by local population and the impugned diversion will result in loss of their source of livelihood, and is in violation of rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution,” said the applicant.

Application admitted

After hearing Mr. Saldanha’s initial submissions, the NGT Bench comprising its judicial member Justice M. Chockalingam and expert member R. Nagendran admitted the application for hearing.

The applicant also stated that notwithstanding the serious violations of environmental, forest and biodiversity protection laws, DRDO has already constructed at least 28 km of high stone-masonry and concrete walls around land allocated to it. IISc had also commenced its project activities without conforming to any norms.

The activist also sought an interim injunction restraining those institutions who were allotted such land from carrying on or proceeding with any construction activity.

  • The petition is about 10,000 acres of Amrit Mahal Kaval land in Chitradurga district

  • ‘The State has transferred the land to DRDO, IISc., ISRO, and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre’