The nation’s highest echelons of justice face the difficult task of unravelling one of the messiest legal cases on mining, involving central and state government institutions, the mining industry and the civil society battling for diametrically opposed aims.
On the stage fighting for Goa’s destiny are: the state of Goa; the ministry of environment and forests; the ministry of mines (which commissioned the Justice MB Shah Commission of Inquiryon mining); the miners, (who are challenging the state and central government orders and the Shah Commission findings at the Bombay High Court); the Goa Foundation (whose writ petition has taken the mining industry to task); the Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti (which has filed a petition before the Green Tribunal against 100 mining companies for environmental damages) and the Central Empowered Committee (which has been appointed by the Supreme Court to study the findings of the Shah Commission and other documentation).
The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Committee report is also being considered for its crucial recommendations for the protection of the environment as several mines are located at the foothills of the Western Ghats.
The third and final Shah Commission report about to be delivered, which will dwell on the financial transactions and losses through illegal mining, will probably hammer the last nail in the coffin.
Affidavits and counter-affidavits pile up high, with public interest litigations, and writ petitions from all sides creating a formidable task for the Supreme Court. One year after the bulldozing of Goa by the mining industry came to a sudden halt as a result of a government order on September 10, 2012 followed by a suspension of all environmental clearances by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), the process of unravelling the monumental mess has just begun. Together with the miners, there is good reason to believe that the state government and the environment ministry have a lot to answer for in this case.
Defending the case for the resumption of mining, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar recently spoke at a pro-mining platform during ‘public agitations’ staged by the mining lobby allegedly blaming the fall of the rupee on the ban on mining in the state.
It is important to note that the ban on mining was a result of the blatant disregard by the mining industry for the laws of the land. It was the lack of respect for nature’s life-providing mechanisms that led to the destruction of water resources, forests, agricultural land, fisheries, and widespread pollution; it was the breakdown of the state administration, law and order, widespread corruption and illegalities in the mining business that led to the ban.
The excuse of mining ‘provides jobs’ is no justification to allow ‘business as usual’. If mining resumes in Goa, it will not be able to provide employment to the 2012 level as many mines will be shut for good. If mining resumes, it will hopefully be under a different management and under tight scrutiny.
Meanwhile, a drive to introduce sustainable livelihoods such as agriculture and forestry would have gone a long way in curbing the unmitigated destruction caused by mining. Yet, a year was wasted with agitations and promises of a ‘pie in the sky’ instead of encouraging and guiding people out of the mining trap. Goa’s prosperity depends on freeing itself from the claws of the unsustainable and corrupt mining industry.
Carmen Miranda, is chair, Save Goa Campaign, Britain, and a member of the Save Western Ghats Movement. The views expressed by the author are personal.