RE-INVOKING URGENT PIL TO SAVE BANNERGHATTA NATIONAL PARK
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ORIGINAL PETITION ON : December 21, 2014
I appeal to you to read this report and to treat it as a PIL for it presents the complete breakdown of government in Bannerghatta National Park and its eco sensitive surrounds. ——————————————————————————————————————
A Criminal Conspiracy – Plunder of Bannerghatta National Park and its protected surrounds – a report by Mark Ulyseas
Between 6 pm and 8pm one is traumatized by massive blasts, the sound echoing in the ears, often shattering glass, shaking the foundations of buildings and frightening wildlife including migratory elephants. It is the roar of dynamite. The illegal stone quarry in Bannerghatta has been operating for many years.
It is alleged that those who have objected to the illegal activity are threatened with choppers and other lethal weapons. They also receive telephone calls in the dead of night warning of an ‘accident’ with a mining truck. It is alleged that a local woman was killed by flying rock from the rock blasting. Her next of kin were paid Rs.8,00,000/- and the case was hushed up. Further, a journalist who reported the goings on was beaten and his motorcycle ‘confiscated’. There are many instances of mental and physical intimidation that is the rule rather than the exception. Those who operate the illegal mine are said to have patronage of a kind that respects no law except that of plunder.
Besides illegal mining – poaching, stealing of natural resources of the forest (including cutting of trees), and theft of sand in Bannerghatta National Park and its protected surrounds is thriving. Recently three poachers (with crude bombs to blow up wild boar) were apprehended by forest guards who were unfortunately beaten up by the poachers. The forest guards reported the matter to the police but the incident was ‘resolved’ when the poachers reached an amicable settlement with the forest guards. Concerned citizens have approached the authorities and have reported this incident.
How can this rape of Bannerghatta continue under the very nose of the state administration and local administration, including politicians? Are we to assume that there is a criminal conspiracy? Or is there a total breakdown of governance that results in Bannerghatta National Park and its protected surrounds to be looted?
Evidence of weak attempts by the State to enforce the law is a mockery of Karnataka High Court and the Supreme Court of India judgements.
Illegal Mining: Genesis of criminal conspiracy
Judgement of The Karnataka High Court dated 10.07.1998: The Honourable Chief Justice, R.P.Sethi, directed the State Government to create ‘Safer Zones’, giving guidelines for creating such ‘’safe zones’, to shift all stone crushing units to these ‘Safer Zones’, and to submit their compliance report before 31.12.1998.
The Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal of the Quarry Owners Association to the Karnataka High Court judgement on 08.04.2009 passing the following orders: “We are not inclined to interfere with the impugned order. The civil appeals, are, accordingly, dismissed. The Karnataka Government is directed to implement the directions in the impugned judgement within a period of one year from the date of receipt/production of the copy of this order”.
The Karnataka High Court, on 18.02.2011, summoned three top officials and told them that a contempt notice would be issued against them for non-compliance of its previous order on moving stone crushing units to ‘safer zones’. On repeated pleas of the officials the High Court agreed to allow two more weeks to implement the directions.
The Supreme Court of India, on 11.03.2011 dismissed the appeal by the State Government against the Karnataka High Court’s order, and ordered: “In our view, there is no valid ground much less justification to entertain the prayers made in the applications, which would allow State Government to wriggle out of its obligation to take action in accordance with the Karnataka High Court’s order dated 10.07.1998. With the above observations, applications are dismissed. For filing frivolous application, the State Government is saddled with costs (Rs.100,000)…We grant six months’ further time to implement the directions contained in order dated 10.07.1998”
The Karnataka State Government issued an ordinance on 07.09.2011 in this regard, which was notified later for the creation of ‘safer zones’ to shift the existing stone crushing units.
There is apprehension among concerned citizens that the State Government may relax the guidelines of the Karnataka High Court in the creation of ‘safer zones’ that will allow the stone crushing units to function in Shivanahalli-Ragihalli area of Anekal Taluk.
Illegal mining in Shivanahalli-Ragihalli area of Anekal Taluk pic by Mark Ulyseas
Shri Anant Kumar has recently adopted the Raagihalli Panchayat consisting of 16 viillages (Ragihalli, Shivanahalli, Jaipura Doddi, Kariyappana Doddi, Ujannapana Doddi, Gudayana Doddi, Kateri Doddi, Sollepura Doddi, Annayana Doddi, Sevanayakana Doddi, Ramanayakana Doddi, Puttanayakana Dddi, Mudallayanna Doddi, Korategere Doddi, Onetemarana Doddi, Muninajappana Doddi). It is in this area that illegal mining is rampant for decades despite court orders. We hope he will intervene and stop this plunder by strictly enforcing the law.
Bannerghatta National Park
Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) is a short distance from the megacity, Bengaluru. It is the part of the migratory route of wild elephants from Tamil Nadu through to Andhra Pradesh. It is also home to leopard, wild boar, chital, sambha, barking deer, sloth bear and more.
Therefore, its surrounding areas is constantly under threat from encroachments: mining, theft of its natural resources and killing of wildlife.
An area in BNP through which wild elephants migrate is a ‘bottle neck’. The area narrows in width because of human encroachments. This leaves the elephants dangerously in contact with humans, which causes the inevitable man-animal conflict.
Poaching is rampant. Wild boar and chital are usually on the menu.
The Indian Wildlife Board on 21.01.2002 declared that 10 km (safe zone) around all National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries as eco sensitive areas under the Environment (Protection) Act. A circular (letter) was sent to all State Governments issuing directions, on 5th February, 2002.
It is alleged that no State Government took any action on the directions.
In 2004 Goa Foundation filed a PIL against the Union Government (Wp 460/2004) requesting the Supreme Court to implement the directions of the Indian Wild Life Board. The Supreme Court gave directions to the Union Government to implement the same by its order dated 04.12.2006 within four weeks of receipt of the communication.
On 21.03.2007, a draft notification by the Karnataka State Government was sent to the Principal Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, Government of India for publication.
On 23.05.2008 the Union Government sent it back to the State Government requesting a redraft with some modifications. Later the Union Government sent a guidance circular for easy publication.
It appears that no notification declaring 10km as ‘safe zone’ around national parks and sanctuaries in spite of the Supreme Court strict orders dated 04.12.2006.
Appeal by Forest Department for an Elephant corridor
This area is one of the oldest habitats of Asiatic elephants and as such it has been included as one of the areas in the Mysore Elephant Reserve under the Project Elephant in India.
This elephant corridor will give easy access to elephants (sometimes 200 in number), free movement from BNP to Cauvery Wild Life Sanctuary.
This will help in preventing man-animal conflict, which at present is at a dangerous level..
A bigger Park area can be developed into a wooded area providing shelter and food for wild life. It would also help in rain water harvesting. This is vital as the underground water levels are at their lowest in years.
The area where the government needs to purchase 1000 acres of land to widen the elephant corridor is in Anekal Taluk. In fact the Anekal Tahalsildar in his letters dated 18.03.2010 and 21.03.2010 has said cited government lands are vacant. It is understood that the Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore Urban District has also recommended the areas to be included as part of the BNP quoting directions of the Honourable Lok Adalat.
The result of this criminal activity
The fragile Bannerghatta Biosphere is seriously impacted by the dynamiting of its hills. Denudation. Dangerous noise and air pollution (thin grey dust settles on trees, contaminates water sources and causes respiratory diseases). Many people including children studying in nearby schools have complained of breathlessness, doctors have reported.
The trees are dying and many are showing signs of disease caused by pollution. In an area where rainfall levels are low this seriously impacts the retention of moisture in this biosphere, which in turn directly affects wildlife for it reduces the forest cover.
This area is a ‘bottleneck’ in the ancient migratory routes of elephants from Tamil Nadu through to Andhra Pradesh. The presence of mining disturbs the wild elephants. Dynamiting interferes with the sensitive homing senses of migratory elephants, confusing them and forcing them to flee to quieter areas, which unfortunately results in man-animal conflict.
Other animals and birds are frightened away from the area making them vulnerable to poachers who use crude bombs to kill wild boar, kill chital and other animals.
2014 is ending and yet the illegal mining continues. It appears that the court orders since 10.07.1998 have not been obeyed. Further, the continued illegal activity can only suggest a criminal conspiracy that mocks the judicial system of the country.
Concerned citizens appeal to you to enforce the law. Those involved in this criminal activity and those that provide ‘protection’ for these criminals must face the full force of the law. The law must not only be enforced but it must be seen to be enforced to send a strong message to those who brazenly plunder the natural resources of Bannerghatta National Park and its eco sensitive surrounding areas
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