Greens see red over proposed mining near Karlapat sanctuaryPublished by MAC on 2005-11-10
Greens see red over proposed mining near Karlapat sanctuary
The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar
10th November 2005
The move by BHP-Billiton, world's largest mining conglomerate, to obtain a mining lease close to the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary in Kalahandi district has triggered a fresh environmental row.
The controversy started on Tuesday when the company moved the District Collector of Kalahandi with a mining lease application. The Collector referred the application to the DFO Kalahandi for his opinion.
The company in its application asked for the allotment of a mining lease area in the Khandualmali hill to extract rich bauxite deposits of the region.
However, the biggest hindrance for the company in acquiring the mining lease as per its demarcated sketch is Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary. A portion of the sanctuary comes under the proposed mining area.
The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO) on Tuesday alleged that the Orissa Government has been under pressure from BHP-Billiton to denotify a portion of the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary and redraw its boundaries keeping in mind the rich bauxite deposits of the adjacent Khandualmalli hill.
Secretary of the WSO Biswajeet Mohanty, speaking to The Pioneer said the company wants the State Government to push back the boundary by a few kilometres to overcome the legal hurdles in getting environmental clearances for operating these mines.
If the company succeeds, it would be the first such case in Orissa where a notified wildlife sanctuary's boundary has been redrawn to help a mining company, Mr Mohanty said.
The proximity of the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary to the mines is posing a legal impediment to the plans of BHP-Billiton as the borders of the sanctuary are within three km from the bauxite reserves.
The Environment Protection Act, 1986, treats an area of up to 10 km from the border of any sanctuary or National Park as "eco-sensitive" where no developmental or industrial activities are permitted. This rule was reiterated in the National Wildlife Strategy, 2002, which was approved by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Supreme Court has also endorsed in several cases concerning mining near sanctuaries and National Parks that no mining or industries should be permitted within 10 km.
The Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, during its visit in December, 2004, in case of Vedanta Alumina, had also held that the Karlapat mines are too close to the sanctuary and are part of the proposed south Orissa elephant reserve. The State Government in its affidavit had stated that no mining activities would be allowed in this region of Khandualmalli hill.
The Kalrapat Sanctuary with an area of 175 sq km was notified in 1992 and at present is the only wildlife sanctuary in Kalahandi. It is a water rich area and is home to several species including leopards, tigers, elephants, black panthers, deer, sambhar and several varieties of birds. It is also rich in floral wealth and is a habitat for more than 25 types of orchids.
The WSO said BHP-Billiton has a notorious environmental track record since it caused a gigantic environmental disaster at Papua New Guinea at Ok Tedi copper mining project. The Australian company dumped 80,000 tonnes of tailings (per day) containing copper, zinc, cadmium and lead into the Fly and Ok Tedi Rivers everyday for two decades, which devastated the local wildlife and fish.
The watershed of Khandualmali hills drains towards the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary and more than 35 streams originate from the hilltop. Water from this hill feeds Tel river. The WSO apprehends that mining of bauxite would destroy the rich water source and lead to a total collapse of the ecosystem of the adjacent Karlapat Sanctuary.
* Mining conglomerate BHP-Billiton applies for lease area in the Khandualmali hill to extract rich bauxite deposits of the region.
* The proximity of the Karlapat wildlife sanctuary to the mines becomes a legal impediment to the company's plans
* Environmentalists allege the company is exerting pressure on the Orissa Government to push back the boundary by a few kilometres
* Wildlife Society of Orissa opposes the move fearing a total collapse of the ecosystem of the sanctuary
* According to WSO secretary, if the company succeeds, it would be the first such case in Orissa where a wildlife sanctuary's boundary has been redrawn to help a mining company