After a sustained protest by Adivasis and activists in Andhra Pradesh's Visakhapatnam district, authorities have finally responded over the issue of indiscriminate granite mining in the Eastern Ghats, especially in the Agency region, inhabited by tribal persons.
Earlier this year, TNM had reported that adivasis were protesting as the reservoir had almost dried up, which had resulted in their groundwater levels depleting and crops failing. In a two-page report, Sasi Bhushana Rao, Superintending Engineer from the Irrigation Department has now stated that the mining companies failed to obtain the pre-requisite permission to begin mining activity in the region.
"The Water Resources Department has not given any permission or any No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the above quarry leases. The above quarry sites are in the Kalyanapulova Reservoir Catchment area. The distance from this water body to the above quarries varies from four to five km," the report states.
"The reservoir is having a catchment area of 21.5 sq miles with an ayacut of 4,484 acres. The farmers of this reservoir are frequently representing for declaring reservoir catchment area as non-mining zone. Further it is to submit that normally, catchment area with green cover will reduce the sedimentation into the reservoir. Green cover disturbance by way of mining is to be discouraged," it adds.
Especially in the hamlets of Z Jogumpeta, Ruchuponduku and Ajayapuram, there are many active quarries and locals had pointed out that companies constantly attempt to blast the hills adjoining the ones they reside on, to ‘test’ if the granite stone’s quality is good enough for mining.
It was in 1978 that the state government constructed the Kalyanapulova reservoir on the Varaha river, one of the first medium irrigation projects in the region. With a large command area that includes 9 major panchayats downstream, the dam ensures irrigation water to around 10,000 acres, besides making sure that several tribal hamlets in the region have drinking water, by replenishing the water table. The adivasis had alleged that the mining companies had blocked several hill streams, cutting off the inflow channels to the reservoir.
The roads that were laid by the Panchayat Raj Department were also completely damaged as they were not built to accommodate large trucks carrying material from the mines, locals had said.