Panaji: Mining in Goa has crossed the social and environmental threshold and further ore extraction should be capped at approximately 20 percent of the current levels, recommends an advisory council in its zero draft report.
The Goa Golden Jubilee Development Council (GGJDC), chaired by Raghunath Mashelkar, former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), also suggests closure of all mines extracting ore beyond environment clearance limits in its report.
The state exported nearly 56 million tonnes of iron ore in 2011-12. The GGJU report, however, recommends that mining should be capped to 20 million tonnes - nearly one third of the ore exported last financial year.
"The interaction of GGJDC sub-group on environment and sustainable development with people in the mining belt suggests that social carrying capacity for mining in the region has been crossed. Environmental carrying capacity also seems to be crossed...," the GGJDC report says.
The GGJDC panel includes former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India Anil Kakodkar, former professor of economics at IIM Ahmedabad Errol DSouza, noted litterateur Girish Karnad, environmentalist Madhav Gadgil and state government officials.
The aim of GGJDC, formed by the former Congress-led government on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the state`s liberation from Portuguese rule in 2011, is to create a vision and a road map for the state leading up to 2035.
GGJDC has submitted the report to the Goa government this month. It will be officially released in June. According to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the report will be placed in the public domain for two months for inviting suggestions.
The report states that a sub-committee headed by Gadgil met stake holders in the mining industry, who acknowledged that rampant mining was causing "social dissatisfaction" among people living in mining belts.
"The companies do acknowledge that there is considerable social disaffection and that the mining industry could and should do much more for local people. Many of them did reiterate that the social fabric is stressed".
"Some seem to observe the disaffection as emerging from lack of infrastructure to address the commodity boom and the inability of government machinery to cope with it," the report states.
Acknowledging the fact that mining has been in existence in Goa since pre-1961 days and that the polluting industry contributed Rs.500 crore to Goa`s coffers and generated Rs.2,000 crore in revenue for the central government annually, the GGJDC report has recommended that it was time to put a cap on extraction of iron ore.
"A cap on mining at around 20 MMT (exclusive of dump mining) between 2010-2015 to reduce the ecosystem and social stress in the region," the report says.
The council also prescribed a four-point strategy to control the environmental menaces caused by mining in Goa.
"Close all mines that have been extracting ore beyond limits allowed by environmental clearance given... Close all mines, if any, operating within the sanctuaries and protected areas and cancel leases in ESZs (Eco-Sensitive Zones) as proposed by the panel...Mining leases in wild life sanctuaries to be permanently cancelled... and mining leases in the buffer of dams to be terminated," the report states.