The Human Rights Forum (HRF) has taken note of the alleged illegal granite mining in the catchment area of the Kalyanapulova reservoir in Andhra Pradesh's Visakhapatnam district and issued a statement on Wednesday demanding that the quarries be shut down.
"The reservoir and its environs, which are a livelihood source for farmers and adivasis in the area, is in a perilous state due to granite mining in its catchment area. The government is constitutionally obligated to stop all mining in the area and ensure that the catchment and local ecosystem is not further pillaged. A comprehensive investigation must be launched to identify and prosecute all officials who facilitated this brazen illegality," the statement said.
"It is evident that granite mining was permitted several years ago in the catchment of Varaha river that feeds Kalyanalova reservoir by a nexus of revenue, forest and mining officials. These corrupt officials suppressed the cardinal fact that the various mine quarries were located bang in the catchment area of the reservoir," it adds.
HRF also alleged that the mining licenses were accorded on land located in 'Scheduled area', in violation of statutes like the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA).
"Instead of actively protecting the catchment and raw water sources, the innumerable rivulets and small streams in the area, unbridled mining was allowed in an environmentally rich landscape. Inflows into the reservoir reduced and the area, abundantly rich in forest resources, was contaminated," HRF said.
"Time and again, farmers in the command area of the dam as well as adivasis resident in close proximity of the quarries had brought these irregularities and the resultant devastating impacts to the notice of authorities. They called for the mines to be shut down and for the area to be declared as a no-mining zone but the government failed to act. The willful degradation of the catchment is still continuing," it added.
The statement also pointed out that the Irrigation Department, which is the legal custodian of the dam, had stated unambiguously in an internal report on June 26, that it was not consulted and did not accord a 'no objection' certificate before mining began.
"We fail to understand why the government has not acted upon this report and cancelled all mining licenses forthwith. From what we gather, local revenue and mining officials are even now trying to whitewash and cover up this astounding criminality and are doing their worst to somehow facilitate the mining," the HRF said.
The activists also urged the Collector to initiate a comprehensive enquiry by the Joint Collector at the earliest in order to get to the bottom of the issue.