The Congress-led Goa government has given a controversial lease of life to more than 60 non-operational mines in the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, leaving environmentalists angry.
The Regional Plan 2021, a futuristic land use document prepared by the government, has revived 63 mining leases in the sanctuary, located 60 km from here.
The decision comes at a time when opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has accused the government of a Rs.25,000 crore illegal mining scam, saying it was bigger than the mining scam in Karnataka.
The Regional Plan 2021, whose parts were officially released recently, said some of the mines proposed to be revived in the sanctuary were non-operational for several decades now.
An environmentalist said that the government's move smacked of double standards and that it was paving the way for mining in the prohibited forest areas.
"The Goa government is trying to bring in 336 other mining leases which are non-operational back to life by including them in the Regional Plan 2021. There is no mining happening there for years now...why is the chief minister (Digambar Kamat) reviving them," said environment activist Claude Alvares.
"Out of these 336 leases, 63 are in the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a protected area," Alvares said.
The sanctuary spread over 420 sq km is one of the five wildlife sanctuaries which are located in Goa and is home to animals like black panther, leopard, slender loris and deer.
Goa Forest Minister Filipe Nery Rodrigues has said that the state government was against the central government's decision to enforce a 10-km buffer zone around wildlife sanctuaries.
"We are asking the union ministry for environment and forests to have a buffer zone in Goa on a case to case basis. Because Goa is a small place and there are several houses and mines in close vicinity of the forest areas," Rodrigues told IANS.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has accused the government of allowing a Rs 25,000 crore illegal mining scam, saying it was bigger than the mining scam in Karnataka.
Goa exported 54 million tonnes of iron ore in the last fiscal from its nearly 100 operational mines.