Sunday, January 08, 2006

Mining at Kudremukh:Why the SC should stand firm

It was quite disheartening to see the Karnataka Bar Association appeal to the SC to reconsider its decision on the KIOCL in Kudremukh. The landmark judgment of the SC that asked the KIOCL to close operations - based on the evidence of immense environmental damage caused to Kudremukh’s pristine rainforests by KIOCL’s operations - promises to be an example in eco conservation. Yes, I can only imagine the plight of the 20,000 individuals who have been displaced as a result. But remember, it’s the KIOCL’s responsibility to find them a suitable alternative. After all, it was the most profitable government owned mining undertaking in the country. It’s time for the cash-rich government to now find alternative employment for its employees. I hope the CM Mr.Dharam Singh succeeds in his endeavor. But, at no cost should the mines be allowed to reopen and cause any further damage to the environment. Just to refresh one’s memory:
1) The Kudremukh range is home to three rivers – Bhadra being one of them.

2) The reclusive Lion tailed macaque, whose numbers are fast dwindling, is found primarily in the Bhagavathi range of Kudremukh.
3) The KIOCL, since its inception has damaged hectares of virgin rainforests of this range and believes that creating rose gardens or eucalyptus groves amounts to “reforestation”.
4) Tons of iron ore sludge was leaked into the forests due to the company’s oversight.
5) All rivers starting at Kudremukh are now witnessing increased levels of contamination in various forms. – Check this PDF.

Speaking of point 2 above, one might ask, “Why does preserving any animal species assume such importance? We just need enough green cover, right?” – Wrong.

There is such a thing as ecological balance, wherein the flora and fauna are equally important to each other’s (symbiotic) existence. Take out one from this feedback loop and the other vanishes. And if the forests vanish, so do the rains (remember, the ocean currents are not the only ones that bring us rainfall) and the rivers that are fed by them. With that ends our source of water, energy and the climate control that the Western Ghats are - which brings me to the point of our flawed understanding of “Human rights”: as much as the 20,000 in Kudremukh have a right to 2 square meals a day, future generations have a right to clean air, water and food – which only a balanced ecosystem can guarantee us for centuries to come (I’m just quoting from articles (this and this) by Bittu Sahgal – and he should know?). So, it’s imperative that we do our bit (for our own good) to preserve what is a basic necessity for a flourishing civilization (and economy). When you see a greedy businessman plotting to wipe out our future in the name of “development”, stand up in whatever way you can against such a force. Express your opinion through the media that matter, lend your voice to the few frail voices that now dare to oppose the “development” cartel and lend your spare time for a worthy cause. Don’t expect someone to lead you by the finger and answer questions for you like “Where do I start?”

If we have the will to stand up & be counted, intend to lend a meaning to our self-centered lives, and amount to something, we will find the means to achieve a worthy goal. Merely saying, "I love nature" or "I'm an avid trekker" amounts to zilch. What have you given back to the forests that have played host to yourinnumerable treks all these years? So, start now, write about it in your blog, write to people who you think can have a significant influence on decisions in future, persuade people, contribute through your time (or money - one can subacribe to magazines like sanctuary wherein the subscription fee will be used for the field work of these organizations).

(Meanwhile, our cities choke on their own excesses… that’s another story, another blog)