Closure ordered

SC clamps down on mining in Kudremukh National Park

Published: Saturday 30 November 2002

kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (kiocl) is to stop all mining activities inside Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka by 2005-end. On October 30, while giving this order the three-member Supreme Court (sc) bench consisting of then Chief Justice B N Kirpal, Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice Arijit Pasayat rapped the Union and Karnataka governments. The bench pointed out that the two had changed their stances in the case like a chameleon changes colour.

The verdict criticised them for "not applying their mind" while adopting "an inconsistent stand" on the renewal of mining lease to the company. It came as a victory for environmentalists.

This directive came in response to an application filed by the Karnataka-based non-governmental organisation Wildlife First's trustee, K M Chinnappa, in the original case of T N Godavarman Thirumalpad versus the Union of India and others. The petition had challenged the continuation of open cast mining by the public sector corporation in the heart of the national park. Mining has resulted in large-scale destruction of wildlife and heavy silt loads in the Bhadra river system on which millions of farmers are dependent for their livelihood.

On the basis of the recommendations of the five-member central empowered committee, the sc observed: "Mining should be allowed till the end of 2005 by which time the secondary ore available in the area should be exhausted. This is, however, subject to the fulfilment of recommendations made by the committee on ecological and other aspects."

Wildlife First's managing trustee hailed the judgement as historic. He said, "The campaign backed by solid scientific data on ecological destruction played a key role in shaping public and official opinion. It has finally resulted in the state government taking a sensible decision to terminate the mining lease within five years, despite the Union government's eventually failed efforts to keep the mining operations afloat for another 20 years."

The apex court also instructed that all other ongoing cases against the company shall continue on uninfluenced by any observation made in the recent judgment.

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