The Goa government has ordered that all 90 iron ore mines operating in the state be shut down till further notice. The decision to shut down mines comes three days after the Shah Commission report on illegal mining in the state was tabled in Parliament.
The state government says the decision has been taken as per the recommendations of the Shah Commission report. All the mines will be shut down till the status of each is checked.
The Goa government is also set to initiate criminal proceedings against two former Congress Chief Ministers for their alleged involvement in illegal mining. Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had told reporters in Panjim on Saturday that in the next 15 days, FIRs will be filed against Digambar Kamat and Pratapsinh Rane, both former Chief Ministers, and a number of bureaucrats, and officials from the Indian Bureau of Mines and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
“The FIRs would be based on the findings of the Shah Commission which has pegged illegal mining in Goa to the tune of Rs. 35,000 crore,” said Mr. Parrikar. Pratapsinh Rane was the Chief Minister from June 2005 to June 2007, while Digambar Kamat was the Chief Minister between 2007 and 2012. In fact, Digambar Kamat held the mining portfolio for over nine years.
The Commission said that the violations are mainly post year 2000. “The main reason is unrestricted, unchecked and unregulated export of iron ore to China which makes the exporter rich and richer.”
The Shah Commission report, that probed illegal mining in Goa, was tabled in Parliament on Friday. Here are a few excerpted observations from the report.
It is amply clear that the Honorable Minister of Mines and Honorable Chief Minister were well aware about non-compliance of conditions and other illegalities/irregularities happening in the mining sector.
But no inspection has been carried out resulted into fear-free environment which has caused loss to the ecology, environment, agricultural, ground water, natural streams, ponds, rivers, biodiversity, etc.
The spirit of Environmental Clearance system has been substantially wounded, resulted into amass of wealth by certain individuals/companies at the cost of environmental sustainability and ecosystem.
Inaction, delayed action and mild actions have had created fearless atmosphere, abuse of law and regulations in the Goa State. This has paved ways for large scale irregularities, illegalities and corruption.
Unwarranted “legal opinion” has been sought even on clear provisions of law in the Acts. More often wrong information or incomplete information was submitted while obtaining legal opinion with an ultimate aim to facilitate or continue mining operations. In all, the legal opinions, it is observed, have gone in favour of lessees and not otherwise.
The regulatory mechanism has been totally collapsed and irregularities due to maladministration have risen to its peak. In the process, the sole loser is the environment, eco-system of the Western Ghats, general public and treasury of Goa State.
In fact, even the Ministry of Environment and Forests has come for criticism from the Shah Commission. The report says, “There is total lack of co-ordination among the three wings of MoEF i.e. Environmental Clearance Section, Forest Conservation Section and Wildlife Section. This has resulted into illegalities and environmental, ecological damages in Goa.”
The report says that the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, had taken the decision to notify the areas within 10 kilometres from the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries and the wild-life corridors as eco- sensitive areas. Though the state government was informed of the same, till date it has not taken any steps in that direction, instead has been active in sanctioning mining here. The Shah Commission recommends that all the mining activities be stopped with immediate effect including transportation for all mining leases where there is no approval or clearance of the Standing Committee of NBWL and fall within 10 kilometres of eco-sensitive buffer zone.
Courtesy : NDTV