The Karnataka government has incorporated a new company to undertake ameliorative and mitigative measures in and around mining areas in three districts. The new firm, Karnataka Mining Environment Restoration Corporation (KMERC), has come into existence with an action plan for Rs 2,000 crore.
The Supreme Court, in its final order on Karnataka mining in April 2013, had ordered the setting up of a company to undertake environment restoration work in the mine-ravaged districts of Ballari, Chitradurga and Tumakuru. The rampant illegal mining in these districts had devastated the environment and agriculture, which was brought to the notice of the apex court through a public interest litigation by Dharwad-based non-governmental organisation Samaj Parivarthan Samudaya.
Subsequently, the apex court directed the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to recommend measures for the restoration of the mine ravaged areas. The CEC recommended a Comprehensive Environmental Plan for the Mining Impact Zone (CEPMIZ) and the setting up of a company to undertake ameliorative measures.
The CEC had also recommended collecting a percentage of iron ore sold by all the mining leases in the state to fund the environmental restoration works. The amounts received, retained by the monitoring committee under the directions of the court, towards part of the sale proceeds, compensation and other receivables are to be transferred to the special purpose vehicle (KMERC), for implementation of the provisions / prescription of the CEPMIZ.
As directed by the Supreme Court, the state government has prepared detailed schemes for implementation of CEPMIZ through the KMERC. The CEC, at a meeting held at Bengaluru on November 17, 2014, discussed the schemes with the state chief secretary and other senior officers. After considering the issues discussed during the meeting, the state government submitted a detailed action plan to the apex court for its approval.
Tushar Girinath, secretary, Department of Mines, Government of Karnataka, told Business Standard that KMERC would be an independent body and would function in addition to District Mineral Foundation (DMF), which would be set up under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Ordinance. Both KMERC and DMF would have separate sources of funds and would work towards the same goal independently, he noted.
According to environment experts, it would be the first and biggest programme being taken up in the country to mitigate the impact of mining. KMERC would repair the damage caused by mining, take up afforestation programmes, and address other socio-economic issues such as education, health, nutrition, water supply, employment and minor irrigation schemes in the mine-ravaged districts.
The KMERC has a full-time managing director and members drawn from the departments of forest, mining and revenue, among others.
The Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) has welcomed the move to set up KMERC stating that the mining industry will work with the state government in carrying out projects for the improvement of health and socio-economic conditions of mining-affected people in three districts.
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