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Karlapat: Jiggered jungle policy as a jinx!
The central empowered committee of Supreme Court had in December, 2004, after a spot verification stated that the Khanudalamali is located in very close proximity of the sanctuary, which is located well within the eco sensitive zone. Again, this region is located within the range of the southern elephant corridor. Hence, mining activity should not be allowed in such a sensitive zone. The state government too has in an affidavit said that no mining activity would be permitted in the Khandualamali area.

However, the District Forest Officer (DFO) of Kalahandi says very tactfully, “The biodiversity and environment of Karlapat Sanctuary is highly suitable for wildlife. Several connecting points of both the sanctuary and the reserved forests would be cut off by mining activities. It will also start telling upon the water problem for the sanctuary and there will be severe noise pollution also. I, however, feel that all these problems can be addressed through modern technologies.”

Member of Parliament from Kalahandi, Bhakta Charan Das, says, “The mining issue would mean complete violation of all sorts of rules pertaining to environment, forest, wildlife and agriculture. Mining would never be allowed in the region ignoring all these issues. While the state government has already identified reserve of bauxite about 5 km from the sanctuary, the Supreme Court guidelines clearly prohibited any mining activities within 10 km radius from any wildlife habitat.”

He added, “If mining is allowed on Khandualmalli it will destroy Karlapat which is just 2-3 kms away. All the streams originating from the hill are perennial due to bauxite deposit which impacts the unique biodiversity richness of Karlapat. The mining will pollute the sanctuary streams and water bodies and will force wildlife to flee from the area. The wildlife and the locals will face the danger of drinking water. Mining will never allow at the cost of nature and lively hood of the tribals.”

Sudhir Pattnaik editor Samdrusti says, “Having delved deep into it, one realizes that the global mining mafias have set their eyes on Karlapat. It is a travesty that till date the country is yet to form a National Bauxite Policy. While the government tom– toms it as development, Karlapat standing at the crossroads keeps on asking the question:  Is it real growth? It might so happen that the government in the name of development would shrewdly and coolly push the locals into oblivion by depriving and driving them out of their natural hearth. For the game plan has already started to deconstruct Karlapat’s topography and bury its beautiful and idyllic surroundings and its people, wildlife and vegetation. Preparations are afoot to sound the death knell of Karlapat and to convert it into a desert.”

Karlapat being a religious base for pilgrimage is also a hot tourist attraction for the nature lovers.  Come and admire the rippling cascade at Patalaganga and a colossal fall at Phurli Jharan. Karlapat provides all sorts of avenues for the sustenance of a smooth and beautiful life. Karlapat today stands tall protruding head high into the sky ignoring the stalking dangers posed by industrialists. Yet it asks the question to its potent plunderers. For how long can you betray the nature through the sheer monetary power of the capitalists? The time is ripe now to ponder whether we should struggle to preserve the riches of Karlapat, for our future progenies or to kill it by shrouding dark clouds over it? That is the call given Karlapat.

Janani says, “Biju Pattanaik did realise the vast tourism potentialities of Kalahandi district. He had understood well that Kalahandi can achieve economic growth if it can be developed as a tourist destination. In 1992,  while he was the Chief minister of Odisha, Biju Pattnaik had literally laid the foundation stone of Kalahandi’s tourism map teaming up with today’s senior BJD Leader, Anang Uday Singh Deo, who was his tourism minister. It is a paradox that Biju Pattanaik himself soon forgot that foundation stone and Kalahandi’s dreams of a tourist destination remained dream. Two years after in 1994 exactly in the same place , Biju Pattnaik visited Kalahandi again and established an ecological park for preservation of ecology and environment. That too meets an unholy death. Anang Udaya Sigh Deo too might have forgotten that. Son of late Biju Pattanaik and today’s CM  Naveen Pattnaik too belongs to this same clan.”

Janani, a minor orphan tribal girl, in the forests of Karlapat treats its villages and hamlets as her family. The orphan roams around villages and spends most of her  time in the forests working with a local contractor. She quips instead, if one points out, that she is a child labourer.  The legendary figure of Odisha Madhusudan Das used to lay village roads while studying in a school, then why was he not called a child labourer? I am doubling up as a worker while studying as a child for the improvement of my village. She requests not to brand her as a child labourer which stands as a stumbling block to the improvement of her village.

The government could not construct a road to our village for years after independence. Yet, false promises are heaped upon when the question of mining is raised. Don’t try to snatch away our development from us by making such promises to betray us. Do not rape real development by narrating false stories. For whom is this mining, for whose progress? This is our motherland. Our life sustains in the womb of these forests. The ever flowing streams write our story, and history. We feel drunk, for we love this land. The sanctity of the silent rock of our lane is manifold in comparison to the temples built with marble stones by you people. The death of our land will mean the death of the fountains of our love flowing for the land.

How will government develop this land by imposing upon us something synonymous with death? Government wants to write stories of development by snatching away from us our happy life? But what shall we get in return? The foundation stone of our development, standing amidst these gibberish, would be lampooning at our future generations? Only urbanization would grow and there we will live in the slums even after we having relinquished our everything. But can you show one single example where one such idyllic Karlapat has been developed by government or industrialists as a model of development? Have you been able to create such a stream? Their promises regarding our development would turn into a nightmare for us.

Whenever the promises of so-called development have been accepted, it has meant only hardship and exploitation of simpletons like Janani. They have been devastated while the empire of their development based on amusement has grown manifold. Can they really develop Karlapat and Kalahandi’s rich heritage, culture, traditions and tourism?

No, they cannot improve these, neither nature nor its rich flora, foliage and our lifestyle. This will only invite bad omens for people like Janani by orchestrating stories of such development as laying foundation stones. While Janani was returning to her village after raising such questions and deriding our model of development, the air around the forests and also the streams reverberated with the echo that was generated out of Janani’s quizzes. It felt as if the forests, the streams, the plants, all have teamed up with Janani to demand answers to her questions……

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