Keonjhar: The mineral-rich Keonjhar district has long been bearing the brunt of environmental pollution due to rampant mining. Forests in most parts of the district are vanishing fast, posing threat to wildlife.
Though mineral mining has slowed down, illegal murram quarrying has caused serious damage to forests. Murram, a minor mineral, is now used for construction of roads in some pockets of Bansapal block while the forest department and the district administration look the other way.
The government has been losing huge amount of revenue while roadside forests are replete with pits and craters. For instance, huge quantities of murram have been lifted from a forest near Kumundi, despite strong opposition from locals.
The locals pointed out that illegally excavated murram is used primarily for road projects of departments like road and building, rural development and panchayati raj.
Some of the projects are—Suakati-Bansapal road, Bansapal-Kadakala road, Suakati-Phuljhar-Dubuna road, Bansapal-Kuanra road.
Conscious residents of the area lamented that though they have drawn the attention of the forest department to the illegal mining at Kurundi village, the department just imposes fine on some miners and keeps quiet. No further action is taken against the mafia, they alleged.
Locals demanded a high level probe into the matter.
Many pockets of Keonjhar were once densely forested, but over the years, greenery has depleted due to wanton mining, illegal timber trade, and industrialisation. Due to the ill impacts of these activities on the environment, more and more areas in the district have been facing water crisis.
It was alleged water flow in rivers like Baitarani, Aradei, Sona, Karo, Sita, Musala and Kusei has reduced over the last couple of years. An alarming sign is that groundwater table has also drastically plummeted in some areas while deep bore wells, dams, ponds, and other water bodies have dries up in early summer.
Water shortage in rivers and dams also leaves an impact on the agriculture sector.
On the other hand, the afforestation efforts of the government and private agencies are not enough to compensate the loss.
Assistant conservator of forest, Keonjhar, Manoranjan Mishra said as per norms, diversion proposal is essential to start mining activities in forest land. Legal action will be taken if anyone does such activities by flouting the norms, he added.