Illegal quarrying triggered the recent landslide in Nandi Hills, say activists

The landslide, which occurred in the Brahmagiri hill range, washed away the road to Nandi Hills.

While the Chikaballapur district administration has blamed heavy rains for the August 24 landslide at the popular tourist destination Nandi Hills, located around 50 km from Bengaluru, environmentalists believe that it may have been triggered by the illegal stone crushing units that operate in the region.

While heavy rains are known to cause landslides, human activities like mining and quarrying can act as catalysts, they point out. The landslide, which occurred in the Brahmagiri hill range, washed away the road to Nandi Hills.

Former Indian Forest Service officer A N Yellapa Reddy attributed the recent landslide to the continuous blasts at quarries in the area. “Stone quarrying units are functional at 100 places near Nandi Hills. Rapid urbanisation has already flattened several hills in and around Bengaluru and Nandi Hills is among the country’s oldest rock beds. Tourism should also be restricted here. Unfortunately, the government does not care,” Reddy said.

The government’s official stand is that the landslide was caused by heavy rain. Nandi and its adjoining hills are the birthplace of five major rivers in Karnataka – Arkavathy, Penna, Papagni, Ponnaiyar and Palar.

Environmentalist Chidananda Murthy said the operation of stone crusher units in the area has continued unabated for long. “Nandi and adjoining hills are a part of the Dharwar Craton which is one of the earliest pieces of the earth’s crust. Unhindered construction activities in the guise of eco-tourism have also been taking its toll on the hills.  Several trees have been cut for development work, resulting in soil erosion,” he said.

In 2020, the state government promulgated an ordinance which extended the licence term of stone crushing units from five to 20 years, while allowing sale or transfer of licences to private parties.

Anjaneya Reddy, an activist based in Chikkaballapur, said the explosions triggered for quarrying severely impact the region. “Expediting tourism projects without conducting a scientific study on their impact will damage the district. The landslide was a warning. The government needs to step in,” he said. “The dust that emanates from illegal mining is also hazardous to the residents and to agricultural activities,” Reddy pointed out.

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