Karnataka High Court has directed fresh survey of mining impact on Kumaraswamy temple and its forest surroundings. In a PIL filed recently, Sreeshaila Aladahalli and others had appealed for protection of this “Monument of National Importance” and its biodiversity rich surroundings as mining activities has caused damage to the 1200-year-old Chalukyan era temple.

The Archaeological survey of India (ASI) has declared this temple extending to an area of 2.5 acres as a “Protected Monument” as per the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.  

This national monument is situated amidst the verdant ranges of Swamimalai Block of Kumaraswamy Range Reserve Forest (which supports a variety of floral and faunal species that is found in Western Ghats). However, rampant iron ore mining has destroyed and ravaged not only the monument but also the unique forest hills located at Sandur, in Ballari district, Karnataka.

Further, in the backdrop of the Kumaraswamy temple being impacted by the fall of one pillar, the High Court said, “We deem it appropriate to seek response from ASI as whether it would undertake fresh exercise of conducting a survey for impact assessment particularly in the backdrop of one temple pillar falling. What would be the period required to complete the survey and submit the report. For this reason, the petition is adjourned for one more week.”

Earlier, the ASI had filed its report on the structural assessment study of the Kumaraswamy temple (in year 2020) to the High Court and stated how human interventions had impacted and deteriorated the ancient temple of national importance.  In this report, the ASI says, “In several places, the sandstone structural members have been adversely affected. Heavy vehicular traffic on the northern side of temple had caused vibration and dislodged stone members of the temple.”

Further, the dust particles had discoloured the monument and caused chemical reaction in the sand stone structure. Also, the intensive air pollution had badly affected the flora and fauna in the surroundings and the ambience of the temple. Also, the roads leading to the mines were located very close to the temple.”

With mining reaching the doorsteps of the Kumaraswamy temple complex, the petitioners sought protection of the temple from the mining companies.  

Senior advocate Sandesh Chouta presented the arguments on behalf of counsel of the petitioner.

The five mining companies which were allotted mining leases around the temple’s vicinity include –

Nandi Iron Ore Mine, JSW Steel Ltd (687 meters from the temple),

Subbarayanahalli Iron Ore Mines, KSMC Ltd (800 meters),

Kumaraswamy Iron Ore Mine, NMDC Ltd (1.2 kms), &

SMIORE (1.4 kms).

However, the fifth one, MSPL Ltd owned by Baldota Group (402 meters from temple) are yet to start mining operations.

In this background, the Karnataka High Court directed the petitioners to delete MSPL Ltd and said, “Mining lease 2559 is non-active and only a letter of intent has been issued to the company. Since it is non-functional and non-operational, so the petitioner is permitted to delete this respondent from the array of respondents.”

The petitioner has accordingly complied with the directions of the court. The case has been posted for hearing on July 20th for response from ASI.