Granite Mining In Catchment Of Varaha River Amounts to An Astounding Criminality

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) calls upon the government to take appropriate measures immediately to protect the catchment of the Kalyanalova Reservoir in Cheemalapadu panchayat of Ravikamatham mandal, Visakhapatnam district. The reservoir and its environs, which are a livelihood source for farmers and adivasis in the area, is in a perilous state due to granite mining in its catchment area. The government is Constitutionally obligated to stop all mining in the area and ensure that the catchment and local ecosystem is not further pillaged. A comprehensive investigation must be launched to identify and prosecute all officials who facilitated this brazen illegality.

It is evident that granite mining was permitted several years ago in the catchment of Varaha river that feeds Kalyanalova reservoir by a nexus of revenue, forest and mining officials. These corrupt officials suppressed the cardinal fact that the various mine quarries were located bang in the catchment area of the reservoir. Mining licenses were also accorded on land located in the Scheduled area and in violation of statutes like the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA). Instead of actively protecting the catchment and raw water sources, the innumerable rivulets and small streams in the area, unbridled mining was allowed in an environmentally rich landscape. Inflows into the reservoir reduced and the area, abundantly rich in forest resources, was contaminated.

Time and again, farmers in the command area of the dam as well as adivasis resident in close proximity of the quarries had brought these irregularities and the resultant devastating impacts to the notice of authorities. They called for the mines to be shut down and for the area to be declared as a no-mining zone but the government failed to act. The willful degradation of the catchment is still continuing.

Significantly, the Irrigation Department, which is the legal custodian of the dam, has stated unambiguously on June 26 this year that it was neither consulted nor the requisite no objection certificate (NOC) obtained from it before mining began. The department stated that the reason it had not accorded permission for granite mining was because the mines areas are located in the catchment of the reservoir. It was also stated by the department that mining was obstructing the natural flow into the reservoir due to which water levels had reduced thereby undermining riparian rights of farmers. It detailed that the reservoir embankment was being damaged by the mining and transport operations and that if water inflows continued to reduce, the very survival of the reservoir and the attendant farming was under threat. Submitting its report to the District Collector, the department sought cancellation of all quarry licenses in the catchment area of the reservoir.

We fail to understand why the government has not acted upon this report and cancelled all mining licenses forthwith. From what we gather, local revenue and mining officials are even now trying to whitewash and cover up this astounding criminality and are doing their worst to somehow facilitate the mining.

 HRF urges the Collector to initiate a comprehensive enquiry by the Joint Collector at the earliest in order to get to the bottom of the issue. Granite mining in the Kalyanalova catchment is a major scam that needs to be investigated in full and those responsible, including officials and miners, prosecuted.

VS Krishna 
(HRF Coordination Committee member
TS & AP)

K Sudha
(HRF State general secretary)


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