Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mining in Goa - if I had the power!

Dear All,
If I had the power, this is what I would get done immediately in Goa:

1 – There is no such thing as “sustainable or environmentally friendly mining “. It is urgent to ensure the current draft mining policy by Goa government is examined by a team of independent experts, and amended adequately before the draft becomes an Act.

Note: There are clear reasons to believe that Goa government is not equipped to draft a balanced and ecologically acceptable mining policy for Goa.

2Limits to mining exploitation in the territory need to be established ideally with a clear and final mining phasing-out time-table.

Note - The lack of data and current studies to evaluate Goa’s carrying capacity in terms of mining operations, need to be urgently addressed by experts. Goa is the smallest state in India, therefore it is important to know what % of the territory can go under the miner's bulldozers without causing irretrievable damage to its ecological balance - forests, wildlife, microclimate, water resources, agricultural land, public health, population displacement.

3 - Mine owners operating illegally and the ones who are operating legally but ignoring the law of the land, are doing it with impunity. A deterrent needs to be put in place urgently and acted upon.

Note- Non-compliance is rampant and the miners behave as if they are above the law.

The forest department needs to be strengthened in terms of legal power and manpower with a clear mandate to keep watch of illegal mining and non-compliance operations in forest land. Miners should be made to pay substantial fines and face jail if necessary.

4 – The above measures on the other hand are bound to create a fertile ground for further corruption and bribing of government officials by miners to allow them to carry on “business as usual”.

Note: To counter-act this, officials that proved to be honest and proved to have integrity should be publicly acknowledged and rewarded. An independent anti-corruption watchdog should keep overall watch.

5 - Rehabilitation of abandoned mining sites should begin immediately, paid by miners but controlled and supervised by forestry and other relevant experts.

Note: The money the miners have deposited for the job is far from adequate for the purpose of landscaping of mining sites, recovery of soil, forests and water tables. Realistic funding by miners for the rehabilitation of mining sites needs to be worked out and back dated, so that proper work can be carried out immediately with proper funding.

6 - The issue of mining concessions needs to be reviewed and new legislation should address the validity and cancellation of concessions if they don’t comply with the laws, and if they are not in operation within an established period of time (preferably a short period of time)

Note: The rehabilitation of land should be a priority and urgent. Mine owners tend to hang on to already explored mining sites for decades. This delays the process of landscaping the sites, and creating the conditions for regeneration of the land. A deadline should be given to miners to return the non-operating sites to the forest department within 6 months.

Ideally Goa should change from mining into a hub for alternative green industry and green energy which would give employment to everyone currently working on the mines. It is also high time to consider growing food again in Goa, and start the rehabilitation of the agricultural lands ruined by mining rejects and stop converting fertile agricultural land into urban development land. I believe FOOD SECURITY will be the issue of the near future. I think it is in fact going to be the BIG BUSINESS of the future together with GREEN RENEWABLE ENERGY and that is a sustainable and constructive instead of destructive alternative that the miners might consider investing in if they are smart!
That is where I would put my money if I had any!

Carmen Miranda on e-group western-ghats@googlegroups.com on Aug 31, 2009

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