Concern over move to allow mining at Hogarekanugiri

Special Correspondent

SHIMOGA: Coming as it does in the wake of a Supreme Court order to wind up Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited, the Government's reported move to give permission for mining at Hogarekanugiri near Kemmangundi in Chikmagalur district has turned out to be a matter of concern for environmental activists.

The people have registered their protest as news of this reported move spread in the region.

To assess the possible damage to environment following the Government action, a group of environmentalists and members of voluntary organisations took up a study which has come out with disturbing findings.

The study was taken up by the Research Section of the Vriksha Laksha Andolana, an environmental organisation of Sagar taluk in Shimoga district, under the guidance of environmentalist, B.M. Kumarswamy of Shimoga, and botanist Keshav H. Korse. The experts have compiled a report on the implications of mining activities on the flora and fauna of the region.

The report compiled by them highlights many serious environment-related issues. It has also upheld the Government's observations on ecological problems. It says the experts from the Vriksha Laksha Andolana had taken up a special study on the disadvantages of mining at Bisagodu in the Kali Valley (in 1998).

Also, the experts, who exposed mining activities at the Shettihalli Wildlife Sanctuary near Shimoga, are now concerned about the Government's proposed plan to start mining at Hogarekanugiri.

The report on the impact of mining at Hogrekanugiri was released by Panditharadhya Shivacharya Swamiji of Sanehalli Sansthan, Chitradurga district, recently at Vagarehalli in Kadur taluk. Environmentalists Ananth Hegde Ashisar and Gajendra Gorasukudige were the coordinators of the study programme.

Environmentally sensitive

The report says: "The Government has said that the region of Hogarekanugiri is environmentally sensitive as it comes under the Western Ghats but at the same time it has overlooked the points made by the report regarding the mining issue. It indicates that Hogarekanugiri is a sensitive region of the Western Ghats found in the ranges of Kemmangundi hills."

According to observations made by the botanist Cycil Saldana, in a report of the State Environment Department in 1983-84, the report says, "The Shola forests and the greens surrounding Kemmangundi, where the tiger and elephant corridor exists, are severely affected by mining." The report says that the Vriksha Laksha Andolana had declared this region as "Tiger Block" 75 years ago.

Hogarekanugiri, which is situated between the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Kemmangundi and Bababudangiri, should be declared as an "environmental heritage region" under the Biodiversity Act, the report has said. It says: "By doing so, rare natural sources such as `Tirtha' and `Devara Kadu' of this region can be preserved forever."

"Apart from scenic mountain ranges and the grassland areas, the forests play a vital role in preserving and containing rainwater to recharge groundwater level. There are also unique and peculiar types of plants and animals here," the report says.

Mining at Hogarekanugiri will also pollute the water body with the release of dangerous metals. Besides, the report says, around 50,000 farming communities of Birur hobli and Lingadahalli region will be in trouble when tanks go dry and the farmland gets covered with silt.

Referring to the problems of restoration of mined area, the report says the possibilities of rehabilitation are rare. The Kemmangundi region and the Kali Valley are standing examples, it says.

To save Hogarekanugiri Valley, the report insists on people's participation, formation of village forestry committees and promoting eco-friendly tourism programmes.

Finally, the report asks elected representatives and the Government to take up development and eco-friendly programmes such as horticulture, dairy farming and afforestation.

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