The lucrative quarry business in Kerala may soon have to pay for the damage caused to the environment by its operations.
The last meeting of the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) held here on September 9 and 10 approved a recommendation that fresh licences for quarrying be given environmental clearance only on the condition that the licencee contributes one per cent of the profit to the biodiversity fund of the local panchayat. The meeting proposed that the recommendation be included in the general conditions for grant of environmental clearance.
The amount would be utilised by the panchayat-level Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) for ecosystem restoration, P. Sreekantan Nair, Director, Department of Environment and Climate Change and Secretary, SEAC, told The Hindu.
He said the proposal was to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological resources, one of the primary principles mentioned in the Biological Diversity Act, the others being conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use.
The committee proposed that the benefit-sharing mechanism be made mandatory for granting fresh licences for quarries in the State.
The recommendation would have to be ratified by the State-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority before it was made applicable.
However, two of the latest applications received by SEAC had already agreed to contribute to the biodiversity fund.
The SEAC has already made ecosystem restoration mandatory for quarries that are granted operational licence in Kerala. Licencees are required to restore the degraded ecosystem in a phased manner.
Applicants for new quarries are sensitised to the need to restore the sites. SEAC members said applicants had responded well to the mandate.
The SEAC also carries out a periodic evaluation to monitor the restoration work.
Chairman of Kerala State Biodiversity Board Oommen V. Oommen, who is also a member of the SEAC, said the proposal to utilise a share of the profits from quarrying for eco restoration works would be a boon for conservation activities at the local level.
He said it would provide a steady revenue source for the biodiversity fund managed by the panchayat-level BMCs. “In good time, we expect to bring other commercial ventures utilising biological resources into the benefit sharing mechanism so that BMCs can take up more meaningful conservation projects,” he said. KSBB is working on a package of 50 pilot projects that can be taken up by panchayats for restoration of ecosystems.