Violating India’s natural treasures
AS we near the end of the century, it is disturbing how over the years, but especially in the last decade, big business interests in India have exploited our natural resources. This has been done with impunity, regardless of the laws that govern the land. Every state has experienced its share of violations. The tragedy is that the great profit-makers have not put even one rupee back, either to reclaim land that has been damaged or in mitigative measures that could help the environment.
Let us look at the case of dams and mines in Madhav national park in Madhya Pradesh. A request was made by the state authorities to release 3,000 hectares of forest land for a hydroelectric project from the Shivpuri forest division. The proposal was examined and cleared by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests through the Forest Conservation Act Advisory Committee. After all, the original application for clearance clearly stated that the chief wildlife warden of the state considered the area to have no wildlife of any significance in 1994. Further, the divisional forest officer had recommended the diversion, even though the value of trees listed was to the tune of Rs 5 crore.
But, the matter was more serious since these were official comments regarding a national park. The land in question included a portion of Madhav national park. The state government, instead of clarifying this in its original application, had only stated ‘Shivpuri forest division’, and the legal status as ‘PF and RF’ (protected forest and reserved forest). No mention of the national park was made! Little did the central government realise that 1,500 hectares of this land had earlier been notified as Madhav national park. The MOEF tried to stop the release only when this fact was brought to their notice.
In a letter addressed to me, the Director of Wildlife Preservation [or Additional IGF (wildlife)] wrote, ‘It is revealed that the permission granted for transfer of forest land for Sindh, Mohini Sagar phase II hydroelectric project was obtained by the Madhya Pradesh government without informing that the land forms part of the national park. Once it came to the notice of the central government that the land proposed for transfer is within the national park, the project was rejected and the state government was asked to fix up the responsibility against the erring official.’
But the GOI had been misled and in the intervening period the irrigation project had spent more than Rs 80 crore, damaging the forest land in question along with 5,00,000 trees. Even today the state government is indifferent to the central government ban on the Sindh phase II project, and continues work in the national park and forest land. A serious violation of the law that governs our natural heritage had been detected, but to what avail?
In the same Shivpuri forest division, other violations resulting from the permission to mine inside the national park have further degraded both forest and wildlife in the area. Strong objection was voiced against the permission given by the ministry to operate seven mines inside the Madhav national park. This area also formed part of the land being released for the dam. In a clever usage of words, both the state government and the MOEF refer to this land as the ‘proposed extension area of Madhav national park.’ Someone in the corridors of power had ingeniously coined a new phrase; there is no such thing as a proposed extension area of a national park.
The objection to the mining was based on a letter from the ministry dated December 1995 regarding: ‘(i) Renewal of mining lease over an area of 930,734 ha of forest land in district Shivpuri. (ii) Permission for removal of existing material and completion of mining operations in the forest areas already broken up in respect of seven mines within the proposed extension area of Madhav national park.’
It refers to the M.P. chief minister’s, DO letter no.4337/CMS/95 dated 1.11.95 addressed to the minister (environment and forests) regarding the above mentioned subject and states that as a very special case, the ministry had decided to grant permission upto 31 March 1996, only for removal of existing material and completion of mining operations in the forest areas already broken up in respect of seven mines within the proposed extension area of Madhav national park. This was subject to the condition that the state government would relocate the mines outside the national park in the alternative areas within the period of this temporary permission.
‘It is requested that during the period of temporary permission, the concerned officials may be directed to keep a strict vigil so that no fresh forest area is broken up during this period. It will be pertinent to mention here that regional office, Bhopal vide letter addressed to chief conservator of forests (land management and FC), government of Madhya Pradesh, has pointed out that mining activities were being continued in some fresh forest areas which were not broken up earlier. This should not have been allowed to recur. It is also clarified that no further extension of temporary working permission from the state government will be entertained in future.’
Under no existing law in the country could the above clearance have been given. The ministry had no power under law to grant any permission ‘for removal of material from a national park’, but they did it. It is obvious that there was a strong connection between the lessees of the mines and powerful politicians. And, believe it or not, the ‘special permission’ continued. This is indicated in a letter dated 14 May 1996, which states that: ‘As a very special case this ministry has decided to grant permission up to 30th June 1996.’ Only in 1997 did the mining stop after the area was totally devastated. How could the central government have issued such orders and under which law?
The IG (forests) in the ministry replied as follows to the objection: ‘The decision to grant temporary working permission up to June 1996 in respect of seven mines located in the proposed extension area of Madhav national park has been taken after careful examination of all the issues including hardship to local labourers engaged in the mines. It will be pertinent to mention that this permission is only for removal of existing material and completion of mining operations over already broken up forest area and more importantly subject to the condition of relocation of these mines outside the national park within this period, so that the interest of the wildlife and labourers employed in these quarries can be safeguarded simultaneously.’ Unbelievable.
In a letter to the IG (forests) it was clarified that as the area was reserve forest, national park land, it was illegal for the ministry to allow mining or removal of materials irrespective of the feelings of the labourers. Also, if the feelings of the labourers working in illegal mines were so important, the ministry should have found alternative employment schemes for them. There was no further reply.
Everyone has sought refuge in the grey areas of the Wildlife Protection Act to suit their own needs. What they forgot was the law and the fact that Madhav national park was constituted under section 35, which states: ‘35. Declaration of national park – (i) Whenever it appears to the state government that an area, whether within a sanctuary or not, is, by reason of its ecological, fauna, flora, geomorphological, or zoological association or importance, needed to be constituted as a national park for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife therein or its environment, it may, by notification, declare its intention to constitute such areas as a national park.’ And after declaring its intention, 35(5) of the Act states: ‘No alteration of the boundaries of a national park shall be made except on a resolution passed by the legislature of the state.’
Within months, the chief wildlife warden of m.p. under enormous pressure and irrespective of the Wildlife Protection Act stated, ‘The exclusion of the submergence area from the national park will not have any adverse affect on wildlife conservation.’ A letter from the director of the park was also released along the same lines.
By the end of 1998, the Madhav case became even more interesting with an MP and general secretary of the AICC writing to the minister of environment and forests on 26 May 1998 asking for a reconsideration of the Mohini Sagar proposal. In his reply of 20 October 1998 the minister stated, ‘The issue of reconsideration of this proposal has been examined in detail by the ministry, including the forest advisory committee. After examination of the proposal, the ministry has taken a view that a final decision on the proposal will be taken only after the settlement proceedings have been completed and final notification issued under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in respect of the extension area of national park. You may also like to take up the matter with the state government to expedite the said process of issue of final notification.’
By 16 November 1998, the general secretary of the Congress, using an AICC letterhead, wrote to the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh: ‘I am enclosing herewith a copy of the letter received from Shri Suresh Prabhu, Minister for Environment and Forests, GOI, New Delhi, which is self-explanatory. I shall be grateful if you could expedite this matter with the forest department officials of the state government. It is requested that you may kindly keep me informed of the progress in this regard.’
Why were the those involved so interested in releasing land from Madhav national park and without approval from the legislative assembly? Was it because the mines fell in the same area as the irrigation project?
The ‘word games’ did not clarify that the so-called submergence area was already notified in the first instance as a national park, and was a reserved forest area. Based on these letters, the court of the sub-divisional officer (SDO) revenue in Shivpuri district, passed an order on 18 March 1999, excluding 2062.05 hectares of land from Madhav national park which fell on the western bank of the Sindh river. Legal opinion suggests that the SDO did not have the authority to do this because the land was reserve forest. But once again the act has been used to ‘take away’ rather than protect.
Take another case. One of Madhya Pradesh’s protected areas, the Gangau sanctuary, ‘vanished’ from the list of protected areas for more than 10 years. When this was discovered, a massive effort went into putting it back onto the list. But after surveying the site of this sanctuary, I was horrified to discover a huge diamond mining establishment based inside the area, as also scores of white sandstone quarries dotting the entire landscape of the sanctuary.
The Gangau sanctuary today covers 69 sq km and acts as a vital buffer for the Panna national park and tiger reserve. The area was notified as a sanctuary on 13 November 1975 by the Government of Madhya Pradesh (no. 5248-3273-DAS(2)75). Subsequently, the government forgot about it and turned a blind eye to the many violations of the Wildlife Protection Act. Today, after being pounded by mining, the sanctuary lies in four fragmented bits. It has still not been brought under the administrative control of the chief wildlife warden and is looked after by the divisional forest officer of North Panna forest division.
In 1996 the district collector started the process of final notification by inviting claims for the settlement of rights but for reasons unknown never completed this process. In fact, in total violation of all sections of the Wildlife Protection Act, the district collector of Panna has sanctioned leases for the mining of white sandstone on forest land, inside the area of the sanctuary. There are conflicting claims about the status of the land between the revenue and the forest departments. The possibility exists that revenue records were tampered with in order to change khasra or survey numbers, so that mining could commence.
Some of the better-known mining sanctions occupy more than 15 hectares in four forest compartments, 543, 278, P273 and P259 sanctioned in 1987, 1992, 1993,1994, 1995 and 1998. Near Badour village, all the stream beds and nallahs have also been mined. Even though it has been clearly brought to the revenue department’s notice that under the law they cannot issue such sanctions, they have refused to cooperate with the forest department. Local courts have also given favourable judgements to some miners irrespective of the acts or rulings in the Supreme Court on these issues. The areas being torn apart could be more than five times what was originally sanctioned.
During the year 1998-1999, more than 20 new leases were sanctioned by the district collector and state government for an area larger than 50 hectares. Such serious violations of the law have been frequent and without clearance from the forest department. What is even more shocking is that though senior officers of the forest department have confronted the district collector of Panna and the commissioner of Sagar division about the existence of the sanctuary, along with government notifications and maps of the area, they have taken little notice and Gangau sanctuary has been turned into a haven for mining.
On top of all this white sandstone mining is the case of the National Minerals Development Corporation (NMDC) at Majhgawan, whose 20 year old lease to mine diamonds expired in 1990. Of course, mining continued and it was only in January 1999 that the GOI finally called a halt. The infrastructure, establishment and mining sites spread over several hundred hectares of the Gangau sanctuary are in total violation of the law. Hectic meetings took place in May between mining and forest officials to find a way to continue illegal diamond mining. As recently as 1996 a new colony for the staff was built inside Gangau sanctuary in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act.
The effluents from diamond mining have found their way into the Panna national park and tiger reserve, polluting the natural water bodies inside the protected area in clear violation of the Environment Protection Act. Huge dumps of mining waste and garbage stretch 10 meters into the sky near the entrance to the national park and on forest land which is part of the sanctuary. Of course, there are other examples across the protected area network in India, but Gangau must surely be a prime example of how a sanctuary can be destroyed and by the state government. Hundreds of crores have been made from this area in the last few years.
Numerous mining leases for iron ore have plagued the natural wilderness of Goa, leaving its surface looking like a bombed out crater. In the north Goa forest division, immediately adjacent to or often inside the Bhagwan Mahaveer wildlife sanctuary, several mining leases encroach on the sanctuary or impact on its borders. The mining lobby in Goa is so powerful that it dictates administrative decision-making.
Take the case of the Molem national park, Bhagwan Mahaveer sanctuary and the other protected areas of Goa. Though over the years, Goa has been a major tourist destination for its sun, sand and the sea, little is known of its forests and protected areas. The few who traverse the coastline rarely realise that some miles away lie the superb forests of the Western Ghats, traversing some 1,200 sq km out of which nearly 740 sq km is now protected.
The Bhagwan Mahaveer wildlife sanctuary and Molem national park cover a total area of 240 sq km of moist deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. The area boasts of a rich diversity of fauna including the tiger. Occasionally even black leopards are sighted. This superb area has suffered because of an absence of political will to treasure it. In 1985, 19 sq km of protected area was denotified, probably to permit some private land holdings and future mining concessions. There is a proposal to denotify another 16 sq km.
Recently, the Netravalli sanctuary has been notified which will adjoin this area on one side covering an area of 200 sq km and Madei sanctuary on the other, also to cover an equal area. If this comes through, Goa will be one of the few states in India to cover its entire stretch of forests in the Western Ghats as a protected area. Also connected through a forest patch is the tiny Bondla wildlife sanctuary. At the far end of Goa’s forests, Cotigao sanctuary hugs the border with Karnataka and even a part of Dandeli sanctuary of Karnataka touches Goa. This provides a vital corridor for tigers – from Maharashtra to Goa to Karnataka. But for how long?
It is a crying shame that the political and business leadership in Goa, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, have not sorted out the horrible devastation being caused by manganese and iron ore mining. At least 100-150 large mines are operating in a 10 km radius of the protected areas, defacing not just the Western Ghats but pumping a toxic cocktail of effluents into the river systems of Goa, such as the Mahdei river.
Mining nets nearly Rs 900 crore each year for private industry. The revenue received by government is barely Rs 10 crore. Recently, the government requested the Tata Energy Research Institute to prepare an ‘areawide environmental quality management plan.’ The report makes it clear that around 21,000 hectares of private and forest land, which accounts for at least 18% of Goa’s private and government forest, has been lost due to mining. The air quality around the mining areas is terrible. The dust fall rate is also much higher than prescribed. As a result, the prevalence of disease in these areas has increased.
The endless discharges have created heavy turbidity making the water unfit for drinking. The high concentration of dissolved solids increases the electrical conductivity of the water making it unfit for irrigation and 320 hectares of land has silted over. The run-off from the mining dumps, pit water discharges and tailing pond overflow accounts for most of the sediment load in rivers, streams and nallahs. At least 70,000 tonnes of run-off material are dumped in the Mandovi river. Each mine also releases 100-250 kg of grease into the water bodies. The worst affected rivers are the Mandovi, Bicholim and Khandepar, all with huge mining dumps situated on their banks.
This is the most serious case of violation of the Environment Protection Act in India. The mining industry, particularly the six giants, earn more than 900 crore every year. Not a rupee goes back to the protection of the environment. Goa will end up with a fate far worse than death as its forests are mined out and blasted, water systems turn toxic and beaches become large garbage dumps. The laws that have been enacted must be enforced by the MOEF and the state government made responsible.
Let us now move onto Rajasthan and the fate of the Jamua Ramgarh wildlife sanctuary. Way back in May 1982, it was notified that all forest land was reserved forest, yet both state and central governments, in total violation of the law, continue to renew mining leases. The two more recent renewals are by the MOEF. In a letter dated 21 January 1998 the ministry wrote about the ‘Diversion of 401.812 ha of forest land for mining in favour of 37 mine owners in Jaipur West District. After careful consideration of the proposal of the state government the central government hereby gives approval for a diversion of 390.524 ha in favour of 34 mine owners for a period of two years only. The state government must ensure the closure of the mining operation in the area within two years and an interim report on the action taken to ensure this may be sent after one year.’
Not stated in the letter is the fact that the leases are part of the sanctuary. It only mentions the area as ‘Jaipur West district’ and cleverly states that operations should cease by 21.1.2000, as if the sanctioning authority was aware of having broken the law.
Large sections of Jamua Ramgarh are completely devastated by mining with at least 12 sq km wiped out and another 10 sq km seriously affected. At least Rs 500 crore of minerals are plundered and sold each year. Mining has pillaged the beauty of this area, including inside the water body, contravening all the laws of the land. Leases for soapstone mining have blocked vital wildlife migratory routes.
Jamua Ramgarh is reflective of the state of the unknown and unvisited sanctuaries of India. Violated, plundered and bombed-out by mines in contravention of the laws; worse, the central and state governments are a party to these violations. It is a shocking story of wildlife governance where the well-known parks become showpieces while the rest are neglected and violated. Does the mining of our forests and protected areas pay for elections? Does it line the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats? Is it such a powerful lobby that no court or law dare stand in its way?
Today, around 2000 mining leases and quarry licenses are destroying more than 75,000 hectares of Rajasthan’s tiny forest cover. Add to that 5,300 sawmills that account for 468,503 cu metres each year. Rajasthan has only around 3% of forest cover left – dense forest accounts for 3,500 sq kms and open forest about 9,000 sq kms. That even this tiny area is plundered is indeed a tragedy. What does the Wildlife Protection Act say about sanctuaries like Jamua Ramgarh? According to Section 29: ‘No person shall destroy, exploit or remove any wildlife from a sanctuary or destroy or damage the habitat of any wild animal or its habitat within a sanctuary…’ And what are we doing?
The wild ass sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch is a fascinating wilderness area. It is unique and more than a mere world heritage site. Every monsoon the desert welcomes the sea and large portions become breeding grounds for crustaceans and millions of flamingos and other migratory birds who come to feast and breed. It is also the only home of the wild ass. In 1973, 4,953 sq km of this vast, flat, salt-cracked area was declared a sanctuary, one of the largest in Asia. It is estimated to have 2,000 wild ass endemic to this area and a host of other species of wildlife, at least 253 species of flowering plants, 167 species of algae, 93 species of invertebrate including 27 species of spiders, 4 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 22 species of fish, 81 species of terrestrial birds, 97 species of water birds, 61 species of mammals. But tragically, given its unique nature, it is a vast repository of salt as well.
A local NGO, the Dhrangadhra Prakrati Mandal, approached the court in 1996 to save the region from excessive exploitation. They stated, ‘In the last few months some powerful vested interests in the salt industry as well as in the government are demanding and actively pressurising the government to denotify the sanctuary. Demand for new land for salt manufacturing increases day by day and because of these encroachments the wild ass enters the crop lands. The Little Rann of Kutch is unique and the most complete desert on earth and it is now feared that this last abode of the Indian wild ass will fall prey in the hands of short-sighted politicians and industrialists. The whole sanctuary with its delicate ecosystem stands degraded, more so as the days go by. With every norm violated, the sanctuary is falling apart and is likely to become a crematorium for wildlife.’
The petitioners further stated that between 1985 to 1990 the salt pan area in the sanctuary increased from 2,479 hectares to 39,955 hectares. The 1990 figure has now tripled! And they are not wrong. The sanctuary accounts for 20% of the total salt production of India and 50,000 people illegally work inside the sanctuary. At least 2,500 trucks ply back and forth every day taking out salt. Every rule of the Wildlife Protection Act has been violated; more than 1000 sq km of the sanctuary area is being mined for salt.
Before the sanctuary was notified there were only 203 licensed mines over 166 sq kms. After the entire area was notified as a sanctuary another 1448 mining licenses were given over 294 sq kms of the sanctuary, and today nearly 1,700 mines operate legally on 460 sq kms inside the sanctuary. The new leases were given by the revenue department flouting the Wildlife Protection Act.
Let’s look at what else afflicts this unique ecosystem. When the sea comes into the sanctuary, an army of shrimp catchers illegally enter and exploit the area. Nearly 1,800 boats with 9,000 fishermen use the area between July and September and catch at least 5,000 tonnes of fish which retail at a minimum price of Rs 60-100 crore each year. It is not unusual to see refrigerated trucks parked at the edge of the sanctuary waiting to transport the catch. 11 species of prawn and 22 species of fish are caught, 95% of it prawns. A total population of 70,000 fisher folk live around the sanctuary.
Chemical factories are bunched in a 20 km radius of the sanctuary, pumping out an enormous amount of untreated hazardous effluents and toxic waste. A soda ash chemical factory in the area pipes its effluents into an open gutter on the edge of the Falku river, 2.8 km from the sanctuary’s boundary. In 1987, villages from the area went to the high court who ordered the company to shift the pipeline since it had severely damaged vegetation and the underground water table causing serious health hazards. Finally, the pipeline was reportedly located 0.6 km from the boundary of the sanctuary and everyone rushed to give their ‘no objection’ to this.
On a visit to the site of the discharge, I found that it was still clearly inside the sanctuary. A small ‘lake of effluents’ had been created destroying vegetation and making it uninhabitable to wildlife. It had become a dumping ground for toxic wastes.
Repeated attempts have been made by district collectors and the revenue department to lease out sanctuary land for salt mining, thereby violating the Forest Conservation Act and Wildlife Protection Act of India. Clearly, the revenue department plays games with land records in order to provide leases. If that is not bad enough, the Indian Army has leased out an area of nearly 250 sq kms of this sanctuary for field-firing exercises under the Armies Field Firing and Artillery Practice Act, 1939. The area for the army was notified by the Gujarat government in December 1969 for a period of 30 years. Once the sanctuary came into being, the land was notified in 1979. In 1985 the chief wildlife warden of Gujarat noted in a letter to the secretary of forests: ‘As this area is situated in the little Rann of Kutch and is within the wild ass sanctuary area, the disturbances and the detrimental effects to the rare species are being noticed. It is seen that at times the firing kills the asses or maims them. In many instances the wild asses die due to noise and fear and run away…’ He tried hard to persuade the Defence Ministry to move the firing range outside the sanctuary but in vain. The firing goes on.
Consider the case of the Gir lion, the Kankei temple and the cement factories of Saurashtra. Gir is not only the last home of the Asiatic lion, it is one of the last remaining contiguous tracts of forest that encompasses 1800 sq kms in Gujarat. It is a vital water catchment; seven rivers flow through it to the coastline some 50 kms away. It is also home to the richest vein of limestone deposits in the country.
The limestone in the area attracts a totally different creature – the Indian businessman, who is totally insensitive to the laws that govern our natural heritage. The area around Gir right up to the coastline has attracted the cement and soda ash industry which has located its factories in the middle of the limestone veins so that the raw material is close by. Super skilled teams of land buyers move in, gobbling up more and more land and jetties rush out to the sea to receive materials like coal and export finished products like cement. Effluents are piped a few hundred metres into the sea to unload their toxic cocktail on our marine ecosystems, depleting an ever diminishing marine life. Some ports like Veraval do business worth $150 million each year. The coastline in the area around Gir national park accounts for another $150 million each year from cement and soda ash.
The limestone land gobblers play endless games with the boundary of the Gir park, mining every bit of available land adjacent to the protected area (and sometimes within it if the boundary is unclear). A recent study (August 1998) pointed to over 100 mines within a 10 km radius of the protected area. These feed seven cement factories and one soda ash plant owned by some of the biggest names in Indian business. So far, not a rupee has been spent by big business for lion protection or on wildlife development in these mine-blasted, pock-marked, crater-scarred land of the lion. Everyone is into making a quick buck.
The situation is no better in Karnataka. Many serious violations of the Wildlife Protection Act have been permitted in the Kudremukh national park. The Kudremukh Iron Ore Corporation (KIOCL), which is already mining in the heart of the national park, is relentlessly moving into new areas and pushing for new leases. The present lease was given before the Wildlife Protection Act came into being, but let’s look at some of the details and the games forest officers play.
Mining by KIOCL for iron ore in the area is based on mining lease no. 909 dated 25 July 1969 which expired on 24 July 1999 (now renewed). When KIOCL approached the state government for an extension of the aforementioned mining lease for a further period (based on a letter application on 4 June 1998, and not a detailed proposal as should have been the case), the opinion of the chief wildlife warden was sought as per procedure. He opposed the extension of the mining lease in his unofficial note no. DM-WL-CR-74/98-99 dated 17 March 1999 to the principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), a note prepared after nine months of investigation into the compliance record of the company. It stated that were mining to continue in the region, consequences to wildlife and forests would be disastrous, especially in Kudremukh national park and the Bhadra wildlife sanctuary (now Bhadra tiger reserve).
In his letter no. A5 (B1)MNG.CR.66/91-92 dated 3 July 1999, the principal chief conservator of forest, Karnataka, wrote to the principal forest secretary recommending a temporary extension of mining lease to KIOCL for a period of two years. He also expressed the need for a comprehensive review of environmental impact due to mining by KIOCL in the region to be conducted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The PCCF also communicated the concerns of the chief wildlife warden about extending the mining lease.
The record of KIOCL throughout the 30 year period they have mined in the Kudremukh national park has been abysmal, both in terms of compliance of law and as well in undertaking environmental protection measures. There are further violations that have taken place in this area – illegal forest felling, road building and drilling activities in preparation for mining within the Nellibeedu area of the Kudremukh national park (over 310 hectares), causing the submergence of 340 hectares of forest by the illegal increase in height of the Lakya Tailings dam. More recently, roads have been built in the Kachigehole valley in preparation for a second tailings storage/water supply dam.
Days before the Kudremukh lease was to expire, the minister and MOEF came under great pressure from the senior-most politicians of Karnataka and they granted a temporary one year extension to KIOCL. Legal opinion suggests that this was in complete violation of the sections and provisions of the country’s Act. When the chief wildlife warden, who is the critical functionary under the Wildlife Protection Act, rejects a mining lease from within the national park, no senior officer or state government can recommend the case, nor can the central government clear it. Yet this is precisely what happened.
There are at least 100 protected areas that suffer due to mining on their boundaries or within the protected area itself. Because boundary demarcations are so vague, many mines have encroached. In several cases their effluents have been poured into the water systems, rivers and streams, seriously polluting them. The first priority has to be to remove mining from our protected area system, since under the Wildlife Protection Act it is an illegal activity. But who on earth will ever do this?
As this century comes to a close, it is a matter of regret that some of our most profitable industries have seriously impacted on the environment causing permanent damage. It has adversely affected the lives of the people – be it through the air they breathe or the water they drink. An environmental catastrophe is about to tear this country apart and millions will suffer. We have detailed only a few examples of the horrors that afflict the land of the tiger. It is clear that while big business has made thousands of crores, not even a paise has been ploughed back. Also, that all the laws that govern the natural heritage of this country have been used and abused as governments have watched silently. The list of horrors is much longer and only a reform and restructuring of our legal and enforcement mechanisms can help undo some of the havoc that has been created. We must act now to prevent the disasters that await us in the next millennium.