By MEERA BHARDWAJ:
Along with ASI, experts from NEERI and IIT, Madras to re-assess Mining Impact on Kumaraswamy Temple complex and its forest surroundings.
As per memo submitted before the Karnataka High Court on 7.8.2023, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will be jointly conducting an Independent Impact Assessment with expert bodies like IIT and NEERI. Further, in this assessment, Dr Padma Rao, Chief Scientist, NEERI and Prof Arun Menon, IIT and faculty members of Geotechnical Engineering division and its project staff will be involved in the joint survey.
The Parvati and Kartikeya temple (popularly known as Kumaraswamy temple) are a Centrally Protected Monument under ASI, Hampi Circle and is in Sandur taluk, Ballari district of Karnataka. Built by Chalukya-Rashtrakutas during 8-10 century CE, it is nestled in the biodiversity rich Swamimalai Forest Range of Krauncha Giri (hills).
In the aftermath of the directions of the Karnataka High Court which directed fresh survey, the ASI submitted before the court on August 7 that they will be carrying out the impact of mining along with environmental and structural engineering experts from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur and IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), Madras and submit its report to the High Court.
Speaking to Green Minute, Nikhil Kurgod, advocate for the petitioners said the High Court had given two months’ time for ASI to submit the mining assessment report.
Presently four mining companies – 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) are carrying out mining at very close quarters to the temple.
Activists and residents of Sandur, Ballari district say the mining activity had impacted not only the temple but also its biodiversity rich surroundings that is home to unique flora and fauna. They said ASI had declared this temple and surrounding area of 2.5 acres as a “Protected Monument” as per the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and therefore, mining should be stopped.
It may be recalled in the aftermath of the earlier mining impact assessment done in May, 2020 by ASI (along with experts from DGMS & National Institute of Rock Mechanics), they had permitted mining beyond 600 metres on all four sides of the temple. In fact, two mining companies – JSW Ltd and KSMC Ltd are the nearest – with mining being done at 687 and 800 metres respectively from the Kumaraswamy temple complex.
Further, as per directions of Supreme Court on 30.5.2015, Karnataka government decided to e-auction Category-C mines in the Swamimalai Forest hills of Sandur and in this regard, set up an expert committee in 2020 to assess the mining impact on Kumaraswamy temple which permitted mining beyond 600 metres.
However, in view of the adverse structural and environmental impact, Sreeshaila Aladahalli and four others filed a PIL last December (15.12.2022) for protection of this “Monument of National Importance” and its biodiversity rich surroundings as mining activities had caused damage to the 1200-year-old temple and the forest surroundings.