In a further setback to the Goa government and mining lobby, the high level working group chaired by K Kasturirangan has recommended a complete ban on iron ore mining in the eco-sensitive areas (ESA) in the state.
“Current mining activities in ESA would be phased out within five years, or at the time of expiry of the mining lease, whichever is earlier,” stated the report that was submitted to the union environment ministry on Tuesday.
The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil had also recommended a complete ban on mining in the ESAs.
The report did not elaborate on the issue of the iron ore mining in Goa since the matter is being heard in the Supreme Court. Of the 1,700-odd responses that the Gadgil committee received on the WGEEP report, 33.89% were not in favour of mining in Goa. At present, there is a ban on mining activities in the state following apex court orders in October.
“For the last two years, a political game has begun between the Centre and state. The state will not accept this recommendation since it’s come from the central government and continue with its agenda in support of the mining lobby,” said activist Ramesh Gauns.
Gauns added, “However the recommendation on the ban will strengthen the matter in the Supreme Court.”
In 2011, HT had reported that 32 iron ore mines were operating on forest land without the requisite forest clearances and 21 mines were operating within the 10 km protected zone around wildlife sanctuaries without environmental clearances.
Of the six states that fall under the Western Ghats, Goa has the highest percent of ESA at 83.57% with almost half under protected areas and world heritage sites.
According to the report, the Goa government has not yet sent their proposal notifying ESAs around notified wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the State to the union environment ministry. The ministry also is yet to receive information on the distances of 139 mines from the various notified wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
The report states that the mining sector, categorised as a red industry, has grown without “consideration for impacts on the ecology and livelihood security” which has led to protests and bans in different states.
HT in a series of reports had reported how illegalities in mining has cost the state a loss of Rs. 4,000 crore though some estimates pegged it at Rs. 10,000 crore. The MB Shah Commission of Inquiry pegged loss to state exchequer through illegal mining at Rs. 35,000 crore.