Elephant corridor in danger as stone mining resumes

Khaira: Stone mining has resumed on Suasari hill under Khaira tehsil in Balasore district after remaining closed for four years.

Wildlife lovers and environmentalists expressed their concern over the development, saying the mining will pose danger to elephants, as their corridor passing through the area will be affected by it.

It is alleged that some local leaders and the administration have auctioned the stone mines for revenue generation while pushing aside the possible threat to elephants.

The area was declared a part of an elephant corridor spreading 272.75 sq/km in Kuladiha range in 1974.  The limits of the corridor were extended up to Paikapada under Soro range and up to Hadagad in Keonjhar in 2011 by a notification issued by then DFO Kedar Swain.

The purpose was to secure the area for free movement of elephants, that can get access to Satkosia and Nato sanctuaries from Kuladiha.  The project was also aimed at facilitating mating of elephants.

In view of this, auction of 109 stone mines in the area had been stopped since 2012-13. Despite this, the mafia still was carrying out stone mining clandestinely. 

Following a report in this regard in Oriya daily Dharitri March 7, 2016, the administration imposed restrictions on stone quarrying and clamped CrPc Section 144 in the area with deployment of police force since October in 2016.

There was secret lobbying by some groups pressurising the administration to exclude the area from the elephant corridor while the forest and revenue department were preparing a map of the corridor and demarcating the area.

Finally, the report found that 98 out of 109 mines are located inside the elephant corridor.

However, a high-level team working for wildlife protection had allegedly prepared a report favourable to stone mafia.

After this, 98 stone mines were leased out for five years through auction in September 2017.

The leaseholders have deposited necessary funds with Khaira tehsil. Now stone mining has started in 20 mines under Khaira tehsil and six mines under Kaptipada tehsil. It is alleged that frequent explosions in these mines have left the people in Guapal and Kadaligadia fuming.

Due to regular explosions, both wildlife and humans are in danger. In the last 10 years, at least eight labourers and over 20 deer, sambars, barking deer and other wild animals have fallen victims to explosions in quarries.

Environmentalist and Prakruti Bandhu awardee Purnachandra Sendha said stone mining needs to be stopped to keep the environment clean.

DFO Biswanth Panda said those mines which are out of the limits of the elephant corridor have been leased out. A team headed by the Collector has been formed to carry on development work through stone mining, he added.              PNN

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