Indiscriminate mining in Bellary district: Rehabilitate environment in consultation with affected communities

bellarys-mines-010Well-known advoacacy group Mines, Minerals & People and two other people’s organizations* have written a letter to the Governor and the Chief Minister of Karnataka regarding the impact of indiscriminate mining in Bellary district on local communities. Text:

We are an alliance of civil society groups working for the protection and development of poor Adivasi and dalit communities in India. The national alliance, Mines, Minerals & People (mm&P) is a platform for representing the concerns of mining affected communities and workers in India who are facing serious problems in terms of their health, livelihood, social security and basic constitutional rights. Sakhi Trust, Hospet and Dhatri Trust, Hyderabad work with women and children on education, protection from sexual exploitation especially for mining affected and devadasi women, through providing education support, counselling, training, legal aid and research. Keystone Foundation works on natural resource knowledge and promotion of indigenous livelihoods of Adivasi communities in the Nilgiris of Tamilnadu.

We have all come together to bring to your kind attention, the plight of women and children in Bellary district of Karnataka who have been facing multiple forms of caste discrimination, sexual abuse, poverty and serious health problems due to illegal mining and irresponsible mine closure. The environmental destruction caused by large-scale illegal and legal mining without any responsibility to natural resources, water bodies and to local communities has led to long term respiratory and other health problems. It has resulted in loss of livelihoods and crop failure to farmers and labourers in the absence of proper rehabilitation although the Government of Karnataka has announced a Karnataka Mining Area Environmental Rehabilitation Fund.

We have come to know that there are proposals pending for new mining leases to revive the mining activities. In the given deplorable situation of women and local communities as a result of mining and post-mining in Ballary district, we appeal to you at this critical stage to kindly direct all concerned departments for serious review and rehabilitation of mining before opening the area for fresh mining leases. We request your urgent intervention through your good offices in economic development of the district, especially for women and children through a cautious and sensitive planning for mining so as to prevent the exploitative environmental and social consequences that mining has earlier created.

We, as a consortium, have conducted a fact-finding visit to some of the mining affected area, a report of which is enclosed herewith. We present a brief glimpse into the problems, for your kind perusal:

  • Indiscriminate mining in Bellary district has left land and natural resources destroyed with high levels of air pollution and contamination of water bodies.
  • Mining has left farmers and landless labour without any source of livelihood
  • Severe health problems related to environmental pollution and poverty
  • Devadasi women have become more vulnerable after mining and post-mining economic situation
  • Women and children are highly malnourished and vulnerable to social exploitation
  • There is largescale waste generated from mining and other industries causing severe environmental degradation and posing serious health problems to local communities
  • Institutional facilities for children’s education and primary health are functioning in a poor manner due to lack of monitoring and large scale migration

We request for your kind attention and urgent action for:

  • Implementation of the Ballary district mining area rehabilitation fund
  • Rehabilitation of Devadasis who are facing severe social and economic abuse

We request for a serious and immediate implementation of the Mining Area Rehabilitation Fund with focus on:

  • Rehabilitation of environment through creation of proper institutional structures in consultation with public and affected communities
  • A strong focus on addressing and consulting women who are affected and experts working with the communities on women and children’s problems in the district

The Mining Area Rehabilitation Fund should focus on the following critical areas:

  • Environmental rehabilitation through land reclamation and reinstatement of livelihood opportunities for farmers and landless labourers in Ballary district to address the problems related to poverty, seasonal migration and severe malnourishment
  • There is an urgent need to clean the water bodies and improve ground water levels after the destruction caused by mining
  • Need for creating livelihood opportunities through MNREGS for rural poor and through urban livelihood programmes to prevent starvation and malnutrition
  • Urgent need for a rehabilitation programme for Devadasi women who are facing social and economic exploitation
  • Urgent need for proper plan for waste management and mine tailings disposal as local bodies are unable to manage the high levels of toxic and industrial waste generated in the district

Letter signed by Ravi Rebbapragada, chairperson, mm&P, Ashok Shrimali, secretary general, mm&P, Bhanu Kalluri, chairperson, Dhatri Trust, and Dr K Bhagyalakshmi, director, Sakhi Trust

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