Greens Raise Concern on Overstay of Salt Unit in Bandar Port Reserve Forest

Vijayawada: The Chennai-based Bharat Salt Refineries (BSR) that has set up its salt manufacturing unit on about 6,505 acres of land under the Bandar Port Reserve Forest area/Panchayat Forest area in March 2002, after taking the land for lease for 20 years, is overstaying.

Environmentalists have raised this issue and expressed concern over the impact of salt water on mangrove forests and sought the BSR’s eviction.

The AP government issued an order allocating 6,505 acres of land in Sy No. 71 at Palletummalapalem village and RS 53 at Polatitippa village of Machilipatnam mandal in Krishna district, on a lease rent fixed at Rs 50 per acre for 20 years. The firm is overstaying and carrying on with its operation at the site.

Though the Krishna district collector served a notice to the firm to vacate the leased land, the latter moved to the AP High Court and got a stay.

The district forest authorities have been objecting to the firm overstaying at the site, its effluents affecting the mangrove plantations badly and even suppressing their growth, the issues remain unaddressed.

Environmentalists alleged that though the site was located in the Bandar Reserve Forest area/Panchayat Forest area, this aspect was “suppressed” in order to provide the land on lease. The GO had only mentioned only the survey numbers. They say that the forest land was leased out in violation of the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, of 1980.

As the firm is drawing a huge quantum of water from the sea and spreading this over the area to dry it into salt formations, the growth of the huge tracts of the mangrove forest lands is seriously hit, they say.

An environmentalist said, “We are concerned about the commercial activity being allowed in the mangrove forests. With the use of saline water, the sand will turn more saline and damage the growth of the mangrove forests and even destroy them, besides harming the local flora and fauna.”

“We appeal to the state government to evict the firm from the reserve forest area and protect the local ecology,” they said.

The environmentalists also fear an adverse impact on the endangered species, the Fishing Cat, which inhabit the mangrove forests.

The forest authorities propose that the issue be taken up at the Chief Commissioner for Land Administration level and resolve it apart from attempts to vacate the stay order by presenting the aspects like its negative impact on the local ecology.

When contacted, Machilipatnam RDO M. Vani said, “We will bring the issue to the notice of the district administration.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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