SC panel says scrap 42 Goa mining leases

Noting that bulk of the mining in forested areas has badly damaged Goa's plant and animal life, the Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court Friday recommended that 42 mining leases in and around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state be scrapped.

Nineteen of these leases are inside sanctuaries and 23 within a kilometre of them, the CEC said in its report to a forest bench led by Justice Aftab Alam. And since these leases violated court orders, the clearances granted to them by the Environment and Forests Ministry should be revoked, the report added.

"Acute damage has also been caused to ground water aquifers due to indiscriminate mining below ground water level, which in turn has, in several areas, adversely affected agricultural activities," it said.

The CEC recommended that the court should allow mining in Goa only after Environment Impact Assessment and proper demarcation of lease areas and after a rehabilitation and reclamation plan is put in place. It also suggested that environmental clearances given to 120 mining leases located within 10 km of wildlife parks and sanctuaries should be placed before the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife.

"After considering recommendations of the NBWL, report of the concerned additional principal chief conservator of forests and other details," the forest bench should examine afresh the validity of these clearances, the CEC said. "Till then such environmental clearances may be directed to be held in abeyance."

The clearances to mining leases on forested land should also be held in abeyance until proper approvals under the Forest Conservation Act are procured, the CEC added. It also suggested a committee of the chief secretary and the principal secretary, Mines, of Goa to examine records of lease holders and submit a report within three months.

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