Chamalapura, which was the site of a proposed coal-fired thermal power plant and spanned a people’s movement against it seven years ago, is back in news again.
For, the picturesque Malleshwara Betta in the vicinity is witnessing quarrying in recent times, which poses a threat to both the flora and fauna in the region.
Described by the local people as Kanasugarara Kanive or the Dreamers’ Valley, Chamalapura is in H.D. Kote of Mysore district, about 40 km from the city.
When contacted, Karikalan, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mysore, said that permission was issued for quarrying on the revenue land but it was found that they were scrapping the surface of the ground in the reserve forest area.
“I have written to the Deputy Commissioner as also the Department of Geology and Mines to withdraw permission for quarrying and am awaiting their decision,” he added.
However, other sources indicated that there was a tug of war between the Forest Department and the Revenue Department over the jurisdiction of the land at Malleshwara Betta, where the quarrying was taking place. Permission had been issued for quarrying or mining by the Revenue Department and the Department of Geology and Mines but not the Forest Department which had suggested a joint survey of the area to ascertain the ownership of land where the quarrying was taking place.
Licence to quarry in the area was issued in 1977 and it was valid for 20 years, and there was a renewal for another 20 years and the present lease would expire in 2017. The Forest Department was keen to bring the area where the quarrying was going on under the reserve forest category, said Mr. Karikalan.
Environmentalists have pointed out that some of the arguments against the coal-fired power plant were also valid for quarrying as the forest would be devastated and the slurry from the mines could pollute the region. Though there have been no blasts and dynamites have not been used as per the Forest Department’s account since only the surface is being scrapped, there is a general perception that it would be a matter of time before explosives are used for mining in the area.
Sanjay Gubbi, a wildlife biologist and member of the State Wildlife Board, told The Hindu that the area was forested and harboured animals like porcupine, leopards etc. Though the land may legally belong to the Revenue Department, the nature of vegetation it supported was such that it was a deemed forest as per the Supreme Court judgment and hence should be declared as a reserve forest, he added.