Karnataka High Court bans all mining activity within 20-km radius of KRS dam near Mysuru

Ban will apply even on existing mining licences, and will be in force till statutory study on dam safety is conducted by expert body 

January 08, 2024 01:00 pm | Updated 09:02 pm IST - Bengaluru

The Krishnarajasagar (KRS) dam in Mandya district of Karnataka. 

The Krishnarajasagar (KRS) dam in Mandya district of Karnataka.  | Photo Credit: M A SRIRAM

The High Court of Karnataka has banned all types of mining and quarrying activities within a 20-km radius of the historic Krishnarajasagar (KRS) dam in Mandya district.

The ban will apply even for those mining activities within a 20-km radius for which permissions/licences were already granted by the authorities, or already operating in the area, or were permitted on the orders of the court in earlier rounds of litigation, the High Court said.

The court also said that the ban will be in force till the completion of a study by experts and the decision to be taken by the State committee on dam safety, set up as per the provisions of the Dam Safety Act, 2021.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice Krishna S. Dixit passed the interim order by suo motu taking cognisance of requiring a study as per the law to access possible danger to the dam of mining activities.

The Bench took cognisance of dam safety while hearing a petition filed by C.G. Kumar, a land owner from Chinakurali village of Pandavapura taluk in Mandya district.

The petitioner had questioned a restriction imposed in May 2023, by the Deputy Commissioner, Mandya district, against using the land for quarrying mining activities as one of the restrictions prevented him from using his agricultural land for quarrying even after its conversion for non-agricultural purposes.

Noticing that the court, in certain petitions earlier, had permitted mining activity within a 20-km radius of the dam, the Bench said that such an order came to be passed as the Dam Safety Act, 2021, was not brought to its notice.

Pointing out that the Deputy Commissioner, Mandya, had rightly banned mining activities using explosives around a 20-km radius of the dam, the Bench said that the petitioner cannot seek permission for allowing mining activities, whether with blasting or not, till the decision is taken by the committee as per the provisions of the Dam Safety Act.

The court observed that the dam was built under the guidance of visionaries like Bharat Rathna Sir M. Visvesvaraya and the then Maharaja of Mysore Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar and serves as main water source for lakhs of people for drinking and irrigation purposes.

The court noted that the State government had entrusted to a team of experts the task of studying the impact of mining and quarrying activities around KRS a couple of years ago, but the experimental blasting activities could not be undertaken, initially due to COVI-19 and subsequently due to want of suitable condition for experimental blasting.

Though the government said that the study would be completed within six months, the Bench said that it is not imposing any deadline for completion of the study as it is for the experts to decide the conducive period and conduct the experimental blasts and record related data to access safety threat to the dam from blasting.

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