Environment Support Group is working with local communities, from about 65 villages, impacted by the illegal diversion of Challakere’s Amrit Mahal Kaval grassland ecosystems in Chitradurga district of Karnataka.
Over 10000 acres of these pristine grassland ecosystems that have been community conserved for centuries, as grazing pastures for the incredibly fiesty and resilient Amrit Mahal bull, were diverted in blatant violation of law by then Deputy Commissioner of the district, Mr. Amlan Biswas, IAS, with tacit support from senior levels of Governments of Karnataka and India, for a variety of defence, nuclear, energy, industrial and institutional projects. The villagers were completely kept in the dark about this massive diversion and were to learn of the loss of their commons only when walls came up. Currently, about 100 kms of high security walls block villagers to their commons that are their water commons, soil commons, cultural commons, and biodiversity commons.
In 2013, ESG challenged this diversion in the National Green Tribunal (South Zone), which gave its final decision in August 2014. This decision required all projects to comply with applicable environmental laws and norms, in collaboration with local communities based on ‘verifiable evidence’, as project proponents had sought to escape claiming ‘national security’ project status. This decision was later confirmed by the Supreme Court of India.
Efforts to verify compliance of the NGT order has been frustrated by the project proponents, as well as regulatory agencies. A Right to Information Application filed with the Central Information Commission resulted in an unprecedented direction that even defence and nuclear establishments cannot take recourse to ‘national security’ to deny impacted communities information relating to environment and human rights. The Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change and project proponents were directed to share information, and were also penalised monetarily. Yet, this direction has not been complied with.
The Karnataka Information Commission was also approached similarly, to secure documents from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. On KIC’s direction, the Board shared all project clearance information available.
ESG continues to monitor this landscape and is now in the process of petitioning various authorities to recover land from the project proponents, as most lands have not been utilised, and return this to the villagers. We have also petitioned demanding that the lands must be restored to their original status at cost to project proponents.
For example, Indian Institute of Science which got 1500 acres of grasslands to build a synchrotron, has done nothing of that sort in over a decade. All it has set up is a teacher training centre which is hardly used, and also continued to destroy the grasslands by building massive wetlands. As a consequence the habitat of the Great Indian Bustard (critically endangered), Black buck, Lesser Florican, etc., has been substantially disturbed.
Annexures A, B and B1 to Leo’s Rejoinder dated 14.2.2014
Annexure C to Leo’s Rejoinder dated 14.2.2014 Annexures D, E, F and G to Leo’s Rejoinder dated 14.2.2014
Addition to ESG Petition dated 14.2.2014 Annexures Part I to ESG’s rejoinder dated 14.2.2014
Annexures Part II to ESG’s rejoinder dated 14.2.2014 NGT order dated 14.2.2014
CFE granted to DRDO by KSPCB dated 3.9.2013 CFE granted to M/s Sagitaur by KSPCB dated 3.9.2013
ESG representation to KSPCB for withdrawal of DRDO and Sagitaur CFE ESG Press release dated 26.2.2014- English
ESG Press release dated 26.2.2014 – Kannada Misc Application for Addl Grounds filed by Bhargavi Rao on 2nd July 2014