With stones in their hands, farmers from Karnataka’s Mandya region walked 150 kilometres to reach Bengaluru. The march of the farmers on November 17 was organised with the hope of meeting Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy to highlight the illegalities in the area under the garb of the CM’s ambitious developmental project on the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam.
Speaking with Newsclick, Dr. Vasu, an activist on the ground said, “Illegal mining in the region despite the ban serves as a warning bell for the people in the ground, making the area prone to seismic activity endangering the region.” He added, “Once this damage is done, there is no going back.”
In a bid to boost tourism in the region and to continue the trend of grand statues, the state government plans to develop the Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) dam park in the state on the lines of the Disneyland Park in USA. The proposed project consists of a 360 feet high museum complex including a 125 feet statue of “Mother Cauvery” at the reservoir in Mandya district.
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The protesting farmers and activists have been demanding that the illegal mining in the region must be stopped immediately. The project, which promises the development of the region, is likely to weaken the land which is in urgent need of repair. Explaining the situation on the ground, Dr. Vasu said, “The region witnesses the highest number of farmer suicides in the state and there is a crisis of water, but side lining these issues, the state government is more concerned with erecting another statue.”
Illegal Mining Continued despite Ban
Recently, the Mandya deputy commissioner had banned mining, stone quarrying and all other allied activities in a 20-kilometre radius around the KRS Dam. The ban was imposed in line with the recommendations of Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Committee (KSNDMC) which directed the Mandya District Administration to check damages and fractures in the dam's structure in the wake of high-intensity blasts in the mining areas around the dam. High intensity sounds were heard in the regions of Mysuru, Srirangapatna, Pandavapura and parts of Mandya in the last week of September. The report highlighted that the sound could be attributed to quarrying activities in the region.
Previously, the Water Resources Department had also asserted that high-intensity blasts in the mining areas are resulting in houses and buildings in the vicinity developing cracks apart from causing air pollution.
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Mentioning a Supreme Court order that bans quarry blasting activity within a radial distance of 2 kilometres from the location of any major dam, the KSNDMC authorities had asked the Mandya District Administration and the Irrigation Department officials to check the KRS Dam regularly with regard to its structural maintenance, in terms of fractures and other civil-related damage. Locals allege that despite the orders, mining activity is still ongoing in the region, which had led the farmers to resort to march all the way to Freedom Park in Bengaluru.
Following the protests, Water Resources Minister D. K. Shivakumar and Tourism Minister S. R. Mahesh held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the details of a Rs. 1,200 crore proposed project that will be placed before the cabinet shortly. The project to develop the KRS dam park was first announced in Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s budget presented earlier this year. However, the farmers and activists have resolved to make the path of clearance for the project very difficult for the government.
*This is a developing story.