Monday, August 24, 2009

Goa draft policy permits mining near sanctuaries

Even as 13 mines including six which are close to wildlife sanctuaries, are facing closure, the Goa government’s draft mineral policy interestingly allows mining in close vicinity of the already notified wildlife sanctuaries in Goa.

The draft mining policy which was tabled during the Budget Session of the Goa legislative assembly clearly advocates mining near the State’s wildlife sanctuaries, which are a part of the ecologically sensitive Western ghats, according to an IANS report.

“Mining leases/prospecting licences within close proximity from already declared wild life sanctuaries would be considered provided they adhere to additional safeguards and guidelines whilst operating so as to reduce any adverse effect to the environment,” the draft mining policy states.

After Environment Minister Aleixo Sequeira gave an assurance to take action against illegal operations of mines, the Pollution Control Board issued closure notices.

Earlier the committee headed by Chief Conservator of Forest Sashi Kumar had named some mines which had blatant violation including operating without permission of the statutory authorities. The draft policy however, does not permit mining within wildlife sanctuaries and national parks ‘for the time being’.

“The State government is also of the view that while it is necessary to earmark mining areas, presently no prospecting leases should be allotted in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. Similarly, no prospecting leases on wetlands should be allowed for the time being,” the document states.

The draft policy also aims to evolve a mechanism to ensure that numerous dormant non-operational leases issued by the Portuguese government, which ruled Goa, before the State was liberated in 1961.“A number of mining concessions are being kept idle for speculative purposes and future mining… The State government is also concerned with issues of conservation of minerals as well as sustainable development and as such would discourage opening existing dormant leases uniformly,” the draft policy states, adding that no such dormant leases would be permitted to work without an environmental clearance and forest clearance, wherever required.

Interestingly, while the State government’s draft mining policy clearly advocates mining within close proximity of wildlife sanctuaries, it also speaks of maintaining the ecological balance in the State.The draft mining policy is the brainchild of Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, who is also the minister for mining, the agency report said.

“It would be the endeavour of the State government to ensure that mining activities do not create an adverse impact to the environment and ecology,” it states.

Herald, Panjim, August 24, 2009

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