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Escalating Ecocide in the Kudremukh National Park

the closure. In the previous year, Kudremukh recorded the highest turnover of Rs. 620 crore, with profits slated to be around Rs. 80 crore.
The present closure of the Kudremukh plant had also adversely affected the traffic at the New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT). The KIOCL plant accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the total cargo handled at the Port.
The closure has affected nearly 500 workers at the KIOCL. But company sources clarified that the rupture was a minor problem, which would be rectified shortly. However, the task is not easy considering that landslides and incessant rains that have lashed the district, have made the area inaccessible to rectify the fault. The Mullikar, Kenya village is at an elevation of 700 mts. in the dense jungles of the Western Ghats.
Repair works on the pipe may be further delayed, considering the fact that the terrain does not permit entry of heavy machinery, without cutting a few trees in the vicinity.
A permit from the Department of Environment and Forests is mandatory, as the entire area falls within the purview of the National Park. In the present conditions, permission for cutting down trees is expected to be delayed.
However undeterred, KIOCL officials have intensified their efforts to obtaining a permit to cut down the trees, in cases of absolute necessary, to facilitate easy access to heavy machinery needed for the repairs.
With the underground pipes in a state of dilapidation, company officials are apprehensive on the possibility of further ruptures at other locations. Though a proposal for the replacement of the pipe had been made earlier, the enormous expenses involved, had acted as a deterrent.
But with the closure of the company, the officials are actively considering a proposal to replace a section of the pipeline.
The KIOCL had recently obtained a second temporary mining licence for an year, after the expiry of its temporary mining licence.
The earlier 20 year licence had expired in July this year. With the complete stoppage of production following the leak, the KIOCL is now rethinking the merits of further investments involving crores of rupees in the project for the laying a new pipeline.
However, under the existing environmental laws temporary mining licences can be granted only twice
to a company. In the present circumstances, a permanent mining licence seems to be the only solution for development of the largest iron ore mine in Asia.
b) The company was only keen to get the damaged portion of the slurry pipe reparied, and were not interested in clearing up the iron ore mess.
Shockingly, the Pollution Control Board gave a clean chit to the company in its letter dated 21.10.2000, which is reproduced below :-
About 100 kms pipeline was laid from Malleshwara to Mangalore to carry Iron ore slurry and it is parallel to Kanyalu stream, the Kanyalu stream finally joins to river Yennehole. The pipeline laid area comes under reserved forest. The sub-committee observed that, the Iron Ore deposits on the banks of the stream and river bed. Since the density of slurry is more than water and as slurry is not water soluble, the slurry has deposited at various places in the river course. There is no possibility of affecting water quality. The sub-committee has observed that there was no fish mortality. Existence of fish life in the riverine system is observed.
The water quality analysis report of the Board indicates that there is no adverse impact on river water quality due to the mishap. The sub-committee also observed that, the problem is limited to aesthetic pollution and may not cause adverse effect on river water quality.
However, the Member Secretary, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board instructed the factory authority to remove the Iron Ore deposits from the river bank immediately and submit compliance. This is for your kind information.
Though the instruction were given to the company to clean up the mess, no action has been taken by the company under the pretext that heavy machinery cannot be taken to the actual spot.
Damaged pipes have been replaced / relayed after cutting down hundreds of trees.
c) The company has been claiming that they are releasing clean water into the river. In a letter dated 8th November 1991, to the Secretary, Dept. of Irrigation they have asserted as follows
If their claim is true and the water is potable, how come they are not drawing the water from River Bhadra for their township ? The paradox is that, they are drawing water from Sita river for consumption of its staff in their township instead of drawing water from Bhadra river.
But the villagers down stream of Bhadra are forced to consume the untreated polluted water !
III) Earthen Lakhya Dam, a disaster in the waiting ?
a) The CES in its report has questioned the wisdom of putting up the earthern dam at Lakhya to trap the silt from washing off to the Bhadra Reservoir.
In the CES recommendation No. 21
Hazards of breaching of Lakhya Dam due to high rainfall needs to be re-examined, detail studies on the structural stability of the Lakhya earth fill dam in the longer run needs to be carried out.
The Bhadra river valley which houses the Kudremukh National Park, is on record as the third wettest place on earth, it records an annual rainfall of upwards of 7000 mm during four monsoon months every year.
b) State Government penny wise pound foolish ?
The Lakhya Dam built without proper clearance has breached serveral times, resulting in runoff of silt with water to the Bhadra Reservoir. Nearly 400 mt (40,000,000 tonnes) of loose earth, in the form of tailings/silt has been deposited by the company in the Lakhya Reservoir, which is a eco-time-bomb in the making.
In addition to breaching of Lakhya dam now and then, the loose earth is getting mixed up with the flood waters and steadily silting up the Bhadra Reservoir, as evidenced by us.
Siltation of reservoirs, lakes and tanks has been the biggest ecological challenges of our times. The State Government on one hand is eager to renew the mining license, which might bring in about Rs. 20 crores profit to the KIOCL. But at what price. The State Government is presently running from pillar to post to get a loan of Rs. 6,000 crores from the world bank only for desiltation of reservoirs, lakes, which were silted up due to the lack of fore sight in our politicians and administrators who had perpetually encouraged such ecologically disastrous activities leading to extensive deforestation. Now they are taking huge loans to clean up the colossal mess on account of such activities.