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Escalating Ecocide in the Kudremukh National Park

According to studies sponsored by the UN, fresh water biodiversity is increasingly threatened by unsustainable development. Global water withdrawal by people for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes have grown more than 35 times during the past two centuries, and a further increase in consumption by 2025 will result in severe water stress for upto 1,100 million people. Large population of India and China will be severely affected. Recent analysis have confirmed that 70% of all our fresh water resources have been contaminated by a deadly combination of Industrial pollution, domestic sewage and pesticides. Karnataka has the largest arid land in the country after Rajasthan.

The latest Asian Environment Report by ADB has confirmed that 90% of the original wildlife habitats in Asia have been destroyed. Karnataka has vast areas of the pristine Western Ghats, which has been identified as one of the 18 hotspots of global biodiversity. The Western Ghats are also part of Global Zoo regions identified by WWF for concentrating conservation efforts. A number of plant and animal farms are evolved and confined to Western Ghats and therefore Western Ghats are also known as the Cradle of Evolution and the Crucible of Endemism .

Nestled in the heart of the Western Ghats is the Kudremukh National Park (KNP), which is known as the third wettest Region in the world, with the annual rain fall exceeding 6000 mm. Incidentally three major rivers viz. Tunga, Bhadra and Netravathi originate from KNP. Unfortunately, the National Park also houses the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited, which extracts upto 10 million tonnes of iron ore per annum from the National Park area. The mining lease expired on 24th July 1999, but despite continuing protests and public outcry a temporary working permission has been extended upto 24th July 2001. Recent Newspaper reports have claimed that the authorities are all set to renew the licence for a further period of 20 years.

We have carried out extensive investigations to understand the escalating impact of the mining on the Bhadra river system, and the flora and fauna of the National Park. Relentless efforts were made since 1998, by the investigating team to collect over 1000 pages of documents. Some of the documents could be procured only after the intervention of the Chief Minister of Karnataka.

In this report we have included our preliminary findings. The cascading effect of deforestation and other unsustainable activities like mining on Western Ghats has resulted in siltation of reservoirs and pollution of river systems. This is evident from the very fact that in order to augment the scarce water sources of the State, the government has recently procured a loan of Rs.6000 crores to desilt lakes, reservoirs and tanks.

In this report we have compiled the effects of mining by KIOCL on the river ecosystem, and the flora and fauna of KNP. We have also extensively dealt with the subject of the violation of the laws of the land by KIOCL.

With this report we wish to raise the awareness of the general public, consolidate the conservation efforts and add momentum to the struggles of people, various organisations and individuals, who have been relentlessly campaigning against the ecocidal mining activities in KNP.