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De Beers survey in Nallamala: govt caught napping

Hyderabad, Nov 22 (INN): The state government was caught napping as far as the foray of the De Beers India Private Limited into the Nallamalla Forests is concerned. The company flew its choppers in the Nallamalla forests in Mahabubnagar district as part of its surveys for detecting the deposits of diamonds, precious stones, copper, lead, gold, and zinc. During a sitting of the House Committee on Wildlife and Environment Protection on October 30, 2010 a member pointed out that De Beers India Pvt Ltd was flying choppers at lower heights for survey over the Nallamala forests, which was scaring the tiger and other wild animals, according to forest ministry version.

Further, three GOs dated 16-11-09, 16-11-09 and 24-11-2009 were issued by the Industries and Commerce Department (Mining and Geology Wing) permitting the De Beers company to survey in 6000 km for reconnaissance survey of valuable deposits in Mahabubnagar district, as per Forest Ministry's version. Obviously the government (Forest Department) was in dark. It had no idea about the 'survey' by De Beers. It ought to have woken up in late 2009 itself. If not that on October 30, the government should have woken up after the House committee member raised the 'issue'. It did not do that.

Surprisingly, the company secured the letters from the Industries and Commerce Department without the 'say' of the Forest Department. Further, in such matters the Central Government was the first to give the green signal under the Forest Conservation Act 1980. Forest Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy did not wake up to the goings on until a section of the press and the electronic media thoroughly exposed the whole issue. The media exposure threw the Ministry concerned in poor light.

However Mr Ramachandra Reddy sought to make clarifications saying that Forest Department did not give any permission to the De Beers company to cover up the issue. Later, the Minister took pains to explain that the government had not permitted any company for survey and issued notices to their own department and listed out the modalities for taking up a survey in the reserve forests.

What is interesting is that De Beers took law into its hands for exploration of deposits without sending proposals for survey, a valid No Objection Certificate and a government order from the Forest Ministry. The company was emboldened to fly its helicopters at a low altitude in about six lakh hectares with whose collusion is not clear.

News Posted: 23 November, 2010
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