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Quarrying to be banned in 5-km radius of dams (Dec.)

Deccan Herald, Bangalore, Thursday 5th December 2013,

The State government will ban stone quarrying in a five-km radius of dams and reservoirs in Karnataka.

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra told the Assembly on Wednesday that an order would be issued to this effect. 

During the discussion on Karnataka Regulation of Stone Crushers (Amendment) Bill, 2013, K S Puttannaiah (Ind) pointed out that the Bill does not propose any such restrictions. The Assembly passed the Bill.

The minister replied that the government would also explore the possibility of imposing the ban under Minor Minerals Concession Rules. However, Puttannaiah said the proposed ban would not be effective in checking damage caused to reservoirs due to quarrying. The minister said the government was open to impose stringent norms.

Projects affected

Earlier, defending the Bill, Jayachandra said work on National Highways 2, 3 and 4 had come to a standstill due to non-availability of crushed stones as stone crushers had stopped functioning. He said the Supreme Court has directed Karnataka to impose stringent norms for regulating stone crushers.

“ Such norms are not applicable to other states. The government will bring to the notice of the Supreme Court that the stringent norms have affected development projects in the State. We will urge the court to treat Karnataka on a par with other states. Attempts will be made to explain the problems to the Attorney General,” Jayachandra said.

Replying to a plethora of questions on the Bill, the minister said the government would appear before the court on December 6 and explain the measures taken to contain pollution caused by stone crushing units. He said the revised law redefines the “safer zone” where stone crushers could be operated.

Opposition members including Y S V Datta, Shivalinge Gowda (both JD-S), S Suresh Kumar and Suresh Gowda (both BJP) pointed out that the Bill does not provide answers for many of the practical problems faced by the people due to quarrying and stone-crushing units.

Suresh Kumar said the Bill lays down that the licensing authority should process the application, seeking permission for quarrying within a month and the maximum time stipulated is three months. Instead, he suggested, there should be a direction to accord permission or reject the application.

Pitfalls pointed out

Datta said use of high grade explosives during quarrying damages houses in the vicinity, and the Bill was silent on this aspect. Suresh Gowda said crushing units were not paying compensation to owners of houses which suffer damages due to blasts. 

He opined that in addition to officials, legislators should be accommodated in the licensing authority since affected people approach the elected representatives seeking compensation.

Many of the questions raised by the members went unanswered. Under the new legislation, a licence will be valid for three years and may be renewed for a further period of three years subject to fulfilment of certain conditions. 

It also lays down that the safer zone should be located two km from National Highways, habitats, temples, schools and rivers; one and half km away from State Highways and 500 mt away from the link roads and eight km from municipal limits.