Two government committees have come out with contrary view on mining in ecologically fragile Western Ghats.
While, a committee headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil and constituted by Environment Ministry has recommended ban on mining in western ghats, a panel of scientists from Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) constituted by Supreme Court wants mining to be allowed but in an environment friendly manner.
“We have recommended underground mining for entire western ghats as we cannot allow valuable minerals to remain untapped,” said a senior ICFRE official on condition on anonymity.
The council was asked by the court to conduct environment impact assessment (EIA) of mining by 104 companies in Bellary, Tamkur and Chitradurg districts of Karnataka, which fall in western ghats and submit its recommendations. The Supreme Court had banned iron ore mining in these districts following adverse report from the state Lokayukta.
While admitting huge environmental loss because of rampant illegal mining in these districts, the committee has advocated use of modern technology for mining instead of an outright ban. “If minerals below Stockholm city can be mined why it cannot be done in Bellary or other parts of western ghats,” the ICFRE official asked.
But, for that, the committee has recommended use of modern technology for underground mining like done in Australia and entire Europe. “These technologies would be cost effective if used for mining all types of minerals,” he said. The committee has also recommended that mining lease should be minimum 25 hectares and companies should operate mines in a consortium.
The Gadgil committee, constituted to examine the impact of industrial projects in entire Western Ghats, wants the mining to be out-rightly banned. The committee has also found that environment impact assessment of projects allowed in one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive area was flawed and has suggested setting of Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate developmental activities in the region.
“We are examining the findings of the report,” a ministry official said, three months after Gagdil, who is also member of the National Advisory Council, submitted his report. It is believed that there is lot of pressure on the ministry to debunk the committee’s recommendation to ban mining and restrict projects in the western ghats.
The ministry is also waiting for the Supreme Court’s final verdict of mining in Karnataka before taking a call on Gadgil committee report.