So explain the scam in Goa
The Role of the Ministry of Environment and Forests [MoEF] in the illegal mining of iron ore in Goa, as revealed by the Justice M B Shah Commission report tabled before the Parliament, is regrettable. The commission’s report indicates a scam of huge proportions. It has rightly noted that these illegal acts could not have happenned without the connivance of politicians, bureaucrats and lessees, with there being a complete collapse of the system. The commission has held that the environment ministry failed to enforce its rule which required the miners to take clearance from the National Board of Wildlife [NBWL] for all projects falling within national parks and sanctuaries, as well as within their 10 kilometre periphery. Instead, it delegated the power to give clearances to the chief wildlife warden in the state, which arrangement came handy to the miners who did not have to deal with the wildlife experts on NBWL who are known for their strong pro-wildlife stance. The commission has noted that the mining activity had been taking place in 90 mines, operational as on December 2011, without the approval of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife, in clear violation of the order passed by the Supreme Court and also of some of the specific conditions stipulated by the MoEF. The judicial commission’s inquiry has revealed that 33 mines in the state were operating within a kilometre of a national park, sanctuary or protected area without permission. It has also noted that there were seven mining leases operating within 1.5 kms of protected areas. Thus, in the state of Goa, most of the mines are in the forest area and also in an eco-sensitive zone, with quite a few of them very close to rivers or natural streams, of which many pass through the leased area.
The result of this production has been the degradation of the environment and loss of bio-diversity in addition to adverse effects on agriculture, horticulture, ground water table level, pollution of air and water and the eco-system in the whole of the area. The commission has observed that a number of persons were continuing mining activities and were in possession of government land without executing any lease deed agreement for the extraction of minerals. Thus, according to it, the state has gifted property of thousand of crores into the hands of private companies, firms or individuals. It may be noted that during the more than half decade of violation of the norms, for a two year spell, from 17 May 2007, to 27 May 2009, the environment ministry was under the charge of prime minister Manmohan Singh, who cannot, thus claim ignorance, or lack of culpability in the matter. All persons responsible for the scam in Goa, particularly in the ministry of environment and forests, howsoever high, should not escape the punishment due to them.