India's mining scenario chaotic: Rights group
Panaji: India's government has systematically failed to ensure that the country's multi-billion-dollar mining industry adheres to key human rights and environmental laws, an international rights watchdog said Thursday, blaming bad policies and corruption for the mess.
Weak regulatory mechanisms, corruption and government oversight have turned the scenario of the mining industry in India into chaos, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed in its report released here Thursday.
The report quotes data from government agencies to say that in 2010 alone there were 82,000 instances of illegal mining in India. Even legitimate mining operations on an average committed 30 criminal acts a year.
The scale of lawlessness that prevails in India's mining sector is hard to ignore. "The bigger problem is the failure of key regulatory mechanisms to ensure that even legal mining operators comply with the law and respect human rights," said the report.
It also presented two case studies on the states of Karnataka and Goa, both of which have been beset with illegal as well as indiscriminate mining.
"Mining operations often cause immense destruction when government doesn't exercise proper oversight. India has laws on the books to protect mining-affected communities from harm, but their enforcement has essentially collapsed," HRW's South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly told reporters here.
Ganguly also said that the Indian government has systemically failed to ensure that the country's 2,600 authorised mining operations adhere to key human rights and environmental protection under the Indian law.
"These problems are related to and have facilitated a series of high-profile corruption allegations in the mining industry that have rocked India in recent years," she said.
"Illegality in the mining sector has deprived state governments of badly needed revenues, threatened the industry with costly and unpredictable shutdowns, and generated political chaos that helped bring down two state governments in 2011 and 2012," she added.
Chris Albin Lackey, who conducted the field study in Goa for HRW, said the crucial environment impact assessment (EIA) studies, on the basis of which mining operations are carried out, are fraud documents which misrepresent ground realities much to the advantage of the mining companies.
"There is a study being conducted in Goa about these EIAs. From what we have seen, a lot of these EIAs do not present accurate information," Lackey said.
"Regulators often rely exclusively on the environmental impact assessments commissioned by mining firms to determine whether to allow a project to go forward. Yet the evidence shows that those reports are often rife with incorrect or deliberately misleading information," Ganguly said.
"Many currently operational mines may have been given approval to proceed on the basis of false information about potential harm to neighbouring communities," she said.
The senior researcher also said that while illegal mining was a problem in Goa, the issue of indiscriminate mining by legal companies was also extremely worrying.
"There is no mechanism with the government to investigate whether the legal mining companies are carrying out legal mining or whether they are following law," Lackey said.
The report also has several recommendations to the state governments as well as the central government as far as mining regulations are concerned. Some of the recommendations include setting up of Lokayuktas and strengthening regulatory mechanisms, scrutiny and rehaul of environment impact assessment studies and criminal prosecution of erring mining outfits.