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Escalating Ecocide in the Kudremukh National Park

Research by scientists of Indian Institute of Science, who were making a survey to identify elephant corridors in the whole South India under the Asian Elephant Research and Conservation Project has revealed that the Kudremukh area had never witnessed elephants in the past. The nearest elephant habitat to Kudremukh was the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary But, during the last two years, the villages around Kudremukh have witnessed elephants visiting the area, which indicated that some elephants from the Bhadra or Subrahmanya might be trying to make Kudremukh might be trying to make Kudremukh as their refugia (a habitat supporting small group).
Speaking to this newspaper, Surendra Varma, who conducted the survey in 108 villages around Kudremukh during 1997, said proper research had to be done on the elephants visiting the Kudremukh area.
We dont know how many elephants are in Kudremukh now and from where these elephants have come from. We also have to make a detailed study whether Kudremukh can support a reasonable number of elephants. If you visit the Kudremukh forests from Naravi side, you find foot hills consisting of bamboo, grass and acacia species of plants, which make a good elephant habitat, Varma said.
In the first place we have to establish where these elephants are visiting Kudremukh. One chance is that from Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, where the male-female ratio of elephants is good. They pass through human habitat to reach Kudremukh. Another chance is that they might come from Subrahmanya. In any case, Kudremukh can play be a crucial junction of the elephant corridor from Pushpagiri in Coorg to Dandeli, Varma said.
Refugias are not new concept. Weaker elephants in good habitats always migrate to another habitat like Brahmagiri, which shelters such elephants from Nagarhole and Wynad and Mukurthi, which shelters such elephants from Mudhumalai and Gundur. Comprehensive research would establish whether Kudremukh would be a refugia or a crucial link in the southern elephant corridor, Varma said.
The prima facie evidence reveals that Kudremukh itself can support a good number of elephants.
The forests in Kudremukh are either moist deciduous or deciduous, very few humans are found in the area and the environment is relatively undisturbed, Varma added.
There are many such howlers in the CEIA but we feel that the nine points discussed by us are enough to prove that the CEIA prepared by NEERI is not only pro KIOCL and superficial but also needs to be discarded as dear to any price.
x) NEERI withholds crucial water sampling Data!
The NEERI, conducted a long term study, extending through monsoon months, but surprisingly they have withheld the data on water quality and sediment flows collected during the monsoon months.
This data was crucial for comparing the pre-monsoon, monsoon, and post monsoon data analysis and interpretation. Sediment wash from the mine area will be high during the high flow period. The effectiveness of the Lakhya dam and the two pollution control dams in arresting the sediment wash from the runoff is very critical from the view point of sediment depositions along the Bhadra river, down stream of the mining area. Photographs depicting heavy iron ore deposits on the Banks of River Bhadra at Balehonnur, 15 Kms, down stream of the mining area during monsoon (Pic 10) speaks volumes about the silt load.
As such the crucial monsoon data is missing, the NEERI report needs to be rejected for its diluted interpretation of the sedimentation problem with deficient data.
xi) NEERI Report confirms encroachment of Forest land by the KIOCL
The Neeri Report has confirmed that 340 ha of forest area outside the mine lease area has been encroached upon by KIOCL without the permission of Forest Department as mandatory under the Forest Conservation act.
The Principal Conservator of forests had in his letter dated 17.9.1997 No. A/5 GFL.CR.231/92-93 had also urged the Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department to prosecute the company for this encroachment, which was also endorsed by the Government of India in letter dated 13.3.97. Pic.8, shows the shola forest valley submerged by Lakhya dam, outside the mining lease area.
The company has all along projected itself as a low abiding company but the truth is exactly the opposite as evidenced by the investigation team in more than a dozen instances.
In Chapter (Page No. 2.195) of the NEERI CEIA.
The employment status for KIOCL has been dealt with in this chapter. There are a total of 1635 employees (executives 434 and worker class 1201). It is also mentioned that 40% of the employees are from nearby areas.
Elsewhere in the NEERI report it is mentioned that there exists alternate employment opportunities in agricultural and plantation sectors. The KIOCL has also admitted that due to mechanization of the mining operations, the job opportunities are thus limited.
So it is amply clear that arrangements have to be made for around 1200 workmen and 434 executives. Since the company itself has admitted it has Rs. 600 crores as reserve, this may not pose a big problem. Even exgratia in addition to other terminal benefits at an average of Rs. 5 lakhs per head will cost only around Rs. 81 crores to the company, which has earned handsome profit of Rs. 58 crores during 1999-2000.
But as per Businessline Report (Kudremukh net drops by over 66 pc in April-Oct by Shri G. Rambabu, 14th December, 2000, Bangalore edition) the KIOCL has lost 66% of its net profit during the first seven months of 2000-2001. Main reason attributable to decline in export of concentrates by 46% and due to slurry pipe damage which hampered the production for 2 months from July to September 2000.
The export of Iron Ore by India has come down by 10% in 1998-99, due to lesser demands from Japan and South Korea. 75% of the Indian Iron Ore is exported to these two countries.
Poor Port Facilities and Equipment
All most all International Ports have loading facility for docking vessels ranging from 250,000 DWT to 350,000 DWT.
The new Mangalore Port can at best dock only panamic vessels, which have limited capacity.
Inefficient loading equipment are also contributing to the losses. Almost all International Ports have loading facility of 1,00,000 to 1,40,000 tones per day. Where as the new Mangalore Port can load a maximum of 15,000 tones per day. Thus, the vessels are completed to que up in the open Sea and face considerable pre-berth delays. Thus, exporters are loosing around Rs. 300 per tonne as compared to International Ports including Australia. Upgradation and modernization plans are yet to be implemented.
India being forced out of Iron Ore competition ?
The above factors are contributing to significant reduction in export share. Australia has competitive advantage over India and has steadily increased its exports to Japan, S. Korea and China.
Cut throat competition has come from Dollar starved CIS Countries like Russia and Ukraine, which have started exporting Iron Ore at extremely low prices.
Finally, economic recession and slow down are seriously affecting steel Industries viz-a-viz iron ore mining companies.