{Link} Aravind Gowda’s exclusive report on ‘Bellary turns graveyard for wild animals’ made me feel deeply ashamed of being a human being (I have not done anything, but I am drowned in deep remorse and hideous sense of helplessness)….. I am, over here, reproducing (also providing the link) his report in Mail Today, April 1, 2010.

 

Aravind Gowda reports ‘A menacing cacophony of noise from trucks and heavy digging machines have replaced the familiar grunts and cries of sloth bears and antelopes – the original inhabitants of the deciduous forests in the iron ore-rich Bellary district of Karnataka. The impact of illegal mining could be witnessed not only in the general topography of the place but also under the once-green canopy.

Today, every leaf in the reserve forests surrounding the mining towns of Sandur, Hospet and Torangallu dons a filthy coating of red dust, raised obtrusively by thousands of illegal ore- laden trucks zigzagging across narrow and bumpy roads cut through virgin jungles. That is the greedy mine lords’ contribution to an already shrinking habitat for wildlife.

Endangered species such as the four-horned antelopes or Chowsinghas and sloth bears Image taken from http://tumkurenvironment.blogspot.com/ {taken from TumkurEnvironment blog have vanished from the reserve forests of Bellary because of the 24×7 mining in the so-called protected areas. These animals are often mowed down by the trucks. Not a single antelope or bear has been spotted in the forests over the past year, a forest official said.

“These animals are sensitive to noise and human activities. We patrol the forests regularly. We have not spotted the two animals in recent times. Mining has disturbed their habitat. They must have migrated to other forests,” Bellary subdivision forest officer A.D. Singh said. Sloth bears were found extensively in Bellary a decade ago. “But they are now restricted to Daroji bear sanctuary in north Karnataka, far away from the mining area. Bears are no longer found in Sandur,” Singh added.

Incidentally, veteran Congress leader and one-time mining magnate M.Y. Ghorpade was instrumental in the creation of Daroji bear sanctuary. But none of the current crop of millionaire mine lords has shown interest in protecting the environment of Bellary as a social responsibility initiative.

Forest officer Singh said several bears were crushed under trucks a few years ago. “Bears are nocturnal animals and they come under the wheels of trucks plying on forest roads at night.” Wildlife conservationists attributed the destruction of animal habitat to the unorganised road network inside forests rather than mining per se. Forest officer Singh seconded this argument. “Numerous roads connecting mines in Bellary pass through the reserve forests. These are the main culprits.” The Chowsingha and the sloth bear – endemic to the Indian subcontinent – are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and also declared vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of threatened species.

Apart from the Sandur reserve forest, Chowsinghas are found in Nagarahole, Bandipur, Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple sanctuaries, Jogimatti reserve forest and Rangayyanadurga state forest in the state.

Forest covers 13 per cent of the 8.13 lakh- hectare Bellary district, of which three per cent are reserve jungles. The forests are dry, mixed deciduous with sparse vegetation where four-horned antelopes, sloth bears, leopards, jackals, peacocks and common langurs were abundant until a few years ago when mining activities were strictly restricted to government-leased areas.

“The four-horned antelopes are shy animals. Loss of habitat is a serious threat to their survival. And they have nowhere to go. The isolated reserved forests are shrinking because of development activities,” wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi said. 

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