Compared to Bellary, situation in Goa is far worse, says environmental action group

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed until further orders all mining operations, including transportation of mined iron ore and manganese in leases, in Goa.

The Forest Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar granted the stay on a writ petition filed by the Goa Foundation, an environmental action group, and asked the Central Empowered Committee to give its response in four weeks. The court made it clear that no mineral, whether lying at a mine head or stockyard, would be transported until further orders.

The Foundation said: “The failure of the State to control illegal mining has led to large-scale destruction of both forest land and non-forest land and as such adversely affected the livelihood of local people, especially the rural poor.” The Union of India, through Ministries of Environment and Forests, Mines, had failed to perform its statutory duties curtail illegal mining.

The Foundation pointed out that the Justice M.B. Shah commisssion, appointed in November 2010, said illegal activities in mining had been going on in the State since 2000. All 90 mines were functioning without the mandatory permission from the National Board for Wildlife and 33 of them were located within 1.5 km of wildlife sanctuaries, the commission report said. The Foundation said: “Iron ore worth Rs. 35,000 crore was plundered by mining companies, committing theft of government property. There was no coordination between the Department of Mines and the Goa State Pollution Control Board; the mines were in forest and eco-sensitive areas and close to streams and rivers, thereby causing severe air and water pollution, degradation of the environment and loss of biodiversity.”

Compared to the illegal mining in the Bellary area of Karnataka, the situation in Goa was far worse and grim — also in the extent of plunder of public resources, collusion of authorities at all levels and total degeneration of the environment, impacting forests and wildlife, and causing depletion of groundwater aquifers and contamination of public water sources and reservoirs. “The illegal mining has led to an atmosphere of corruption and maladministration which threatens to destroy the ethical fabric of society,” the petition said and sought a direction to the Goa government not to permit resumption of mining until after the Shah report findings were adequately dealt with.

Counsel Prashant Bhushan appeared for the Foundation.