Mangalore, April 19: With the Supreme Court revoking the ban on export and transportation of iron ore in the State from April 20, ore transporting trucks are expected to ply on the national highways leading to Mangalore soon.
The interim order was passed on April 5 after the State government informed the court that it notified the Karnataka Prevention of Illegal Mining, Transportation, and Storage of Minerals Rules for regulating iron ore mining and transportation on April 1, 2011.
The court gave the State government 15 days, which it had sought, to put in place the infrastructure to enforce the new rules to prevent illegal mining of iron ore and its transportation. Several trucks were seen on the highways passing through the city daily when there was a boom in iron ore export in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Following the court order, heavy trucks are expected to hit the highways, although one is not sure from when.
Some people here said that the movement of heavy trucks was likely to damage the highways. Praveenchandra Shetty, chairman, road safety sub-committee, Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said: “The highways might not be able to bear the weight of overloaded trucks transporting iron ore. I am sure the highways like earlier will develop potholes and the surface will erode.”
Mr. Shetty, who is a motor surveyor/assessor by profession, claimed that the highways leading to the port city had been designed to bear loads up to 35 tonnes, including gross vehicle weight. Based on his previous assessment, he said that a majority of trucks carried 45 tonnes of ore. Some trucks carried up to 60 tonnes, he added.
He alleged that a four-lane road constructed between Surathkal and B.C. Road recently was of inferior quality. Even this stretch would not be able to bear the load of such trucks.
G. Hanumantha Kamath, president, Nagarika Hitarakshana Samiti, Mangalore, said the stretch of the highway between Kundapur and Surathkal was being widened. The highway widening work and the movement of trucks carrying iron ore would lead to traffic jams and increase in the number of accidents, he added.
Most of the drivers of trucks carrying iron ore were known for rash driving. The movement of such trucks should be banned during monsoon as they would create havoc on the highways, he said.
An assistant engineer at the Mangalore Division of State National Highways said that as per the standard set by the Centre a single axle vehicle was permitted to carry eight tonnes of load. Most of the trucks that transported iron ore to the New Mangalore Port had three axles which were permitted to carry only up to 25 tonnes of load.
He said that the highways leading to Mangalore could bear a maximum load of 35 tonnes.
As per the present standards, transporters had to obtain special permission from the Centre to carry more than 44 tonnes. They should deposit the specified money with the government for the purpose, he added.
When petroleum products were dropped on road, they damaged its surface resulting in potholes. In addition, trucks transporting over dimensional shipment (such as huge machinery for factories) damaged the highways, he said.
An assistant executive engineer, who worked in the division till recently, said that the Shiradi Ghat stretch might not bear a load exceeding 30 tonnes as it was in a poor condition.
System yet to be in place to check overloading
When the Supreme Court’s order lifting the ban on iron ore is implemented, there may be no respite from overloading of iron ore for two reasons, according to people with expertise in the field.
Incidentally, officials confirm that no overloading case has been registered in the district in the past four years.
The first reason is that the State government is yet to bring in amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) or the M and M (D and R) Act 1957 to make the offence of overloading stringent; and the second reason is the absence of a coordinated action by departments in the enforcement of rules related to overloading.
The need of bringing in amendments to the M and M (D and R) Act was highlighted by Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde in his report submitted to the government in December 2008. “The present system of compounding of offences under the M and M (D and R) Act encourages officials as well as offenders to indulge in more and more illegal acts, because the maximum compounding offence is Rs. 25,000 only.
This is not deterrent compared to the value of the mineral … The provision for compounding itself should be done away with” Mr. Hegde said in his report.
Mr. Hegde had suggested provisions for seizure and impounding of material and the vehicle as found in the Forest Act. “Without such serious consequences, it would be difficult to control the illegal mining,” Mr. Hegde said in his report.
According to an official involved in curbing illegal mining, the persons involved in transportation of iron ore are powerful and are capable of subverting any system put in place to check overloading.
“Personnel at the check posts have been bought over and loading has been ignored,” the official said.
Collective action by the Departments of Revenue, Road Transport, Police and the Mines and Geology, was necessary to make the enforcement effective.
The Regional Transport Office (RTO), Mangalore, has been taking action against overloading of iron ore as per the norms in the Gazette Notification of October 29, 2007. Assistant Regional Transport Officer Felix D’Souza said a fine of Rs. 2,000 was collected from every vehicle carrying goods in excess of its capacity as specified in the Certificate of Registration of the Vehicle. The maximum weight for a six-wheel lorry inclusive of the weight of the vehicle is 16,200 kg, while that of a 10-wheel lorry was 25,000 kg, he said.
An offender would have to pay Rs. 1,000 for every 1,000 kg of excess load. The excess load was offloaded and the vehicle allowed to proceed, he said.
Mr. D’Souza said that trucks carrying ore to the New Mangalore Port entered the district either through National Highway 17 via Udupi or National Highway 48 via Shiradi Ghat. The trucks were checked only if officials suspected that the records were dubious, he said, and added that there were several weigh bridges for the purpose. Mr. D’ Souza claimed that not a single truck carrying ore had passed through the district in 2010. However, four years ago cases were booked against overloaded trucks and the excess ore was offloaded, he said.
Courtesy- The Hindu