|Mines department ignored to help Buddha smile
Sunday May 15 2005 00:00 IST
BANGALORE: The Government granting preliminary permission to the Sanghamitra Foundation to acquire 10 acres of forest land at Handi Gondi near Ramanagaram for carving out a 712-feet Buddha statue is all set to rake up a new controversy.
During the whole process, the Government has not sought the opinion of the Mines and Geology Department, whose permission is a must for any kind of “mining” operation.
Though carving of statue per se is not mining, breaking and removing of any stones or minerals is defined as mining. In this case, a 1050-feet monolithic stone will be reduced to a 712-feet statue.
Though Mines and Geology officials admit that this amounted to mining and came under their purview, they plead helplessness as the Government had not sought their opinion on the entire issue.
Meanwhile, the permission to acquire only 10 acres of forest land for the proposed project said to be coming up on 2000 acres has bewildered those opposing the project on environmental grounds.
According to the website of the foundation, the whole project would come up on 2000 acres of “beautiful serene environment”. The place will be home to some of the finest architecture, which includes a string of Buddhist monasteries, meditation centers, vast libraries, state-of-the-art facilities to cater to the visitors and seekers of spiritual knowledge, the website says.
Padma Vihar, a cultural centre containing a library of literature on all religions will be constructed and an observation tower similar to the Ashoka Sthambha will be constructed diagonally opposite the Buddha statue, it adds.
According to Environmental Support Group Coordinator Leo Saldhana, the move was a ploy to circumvent the rules. “In this case, forest land has to be diverted for non-forestry activities. If the organisation applies for diverting more than 20 hectares of forest land, it needs environmental clearance as per the Forest Conservation Act (1980).
By getting a small tract of land diverted, they are avoiding these complications,” he charged. Besides, the Act says that any project involving below two and a half hectares of land can be cleared “case by case” basis. The Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) will be competent to clear any project involving land up to five hectares of land.
Above that, the clearance should be obtained from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests Secretary. It appears that the Foundation is splitting the whole project into multiple pieces to avoid these hassles, he charged.
“Even the Forest Department knows that the whole project cannot be conceived in the small area and is trying to camouflage the issue, which is illegal. The project is taking shelter under eco-tourism provisions and the project cost is under-valued. This amounts to misrepresentation of facts,” he charged.
Ramesh of Sanghamitra Foundation was not available for comments.