Central clearance must for mining in forests: Ramesh

Bangalore/New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday denied his ministry had been consulted before approving mining in forest areas in Karnataka, as claimed by the state government.

‘I wish to categorically state the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has not been consulted by the state on this decision,’ Ramesh said in a letter to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.

Ramesh’s letter, released to the media in New Delhi, followed state Home Minister V.S. Acharya’s statement Saturday that the environment ministry had been consulted before the state cabinet decided to open up several blocks in forest areas for mining.

The cabinet permitted mining on 11,620 sq km area in 14 blocks in Bellary, Shimoga and Mysore districts.

With opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) opposing mining in forest areas, Acharya said these blocks had been de-reserved by the Congress government in 2003 and the present government had only cleared the applications.

‘Mining is not being allowed in reserved forest areas,’ Acharya said.

However, Ramesh said in his letter to Yeddyurappa that ‘number of MPs from Karnataka cutting across party lines met me in parliament and expressed their concern at the decision to allow mining in reserved forest areas in different districts of the state’.

He referred to media reports quoting the state home minister that the decision was taken after consultation with the union Environment and Forests ministry.

Denying his ministry had been consulted, Ramesh asserted that ‘even though the state government may have given permission, the final authority, as far as diversion of forest land for non-forestry, including mining, purposes in concerned, is the union Environment and Forests Ministry.’

‘I am sure the state government is well aware of this but I did not want to leave any ambiguity on this score especially in view of the media reports which I have referred to,’ he said.

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