NATIONAL

Goa fixes up to 2 km buffer zone for mining near sanctuaries

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday the State government will not allow any new mining leases up to 2 km of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

The Chief Minister told presspersons on the sidelines of a function in the city on Monday: “Our view is that those mines situated between 100 metres to 1 km of the wildlife sanctuaries be closed in a phased manner over a period of 5 to 10 years.

“Keeping the environment in mind, the government has decided to have a 1km buffer zone for wildlife sanctuaries,” he said and added that it would be site-specific in some cases which would mean wherever water bodies form natural boundaries, they would be accepted.

The buffer zone of one km had been fixed for four wildlife sanctuaries and a national park — Mahadayi, Netravali, Bhagwan Mahaveer and Mollem national park and for Chorao Bird sanctuary and Bondla Wildlife sanctuary, it had been identified as 100 metres being site specific with natural boundaries. In buffer zone areas no economic development would be allowed except agriculture and eco-tourism, Mr. Parrikar said.

Mr. Parrikar wondered whether demarcating a buffer zone was in a way surrendering State's rights to the Centre as they could allow anything there.

He said that buffer zone, in that sense, was no guarantee of environment protection as there was no legal sanctity to it.

“We have accepted 1km as buffer zone with certain conditions,” he said and added that with the State government’s decision to submit its recommendation to the Central Empowering Committee (CEC), the two committees set up earlier to recommend buffer zone had become virtually redundant.

Referring to new applications for leases from miners, he said: “People may apply, but our policy decision is that no new applications for new mining leases will be considered and the said leases will be considered as dead. They will be treated as null and void for next five years.” The Chief Minister said that the tiny coastal tourist State had 20.4 per cent of its total area as wildlife area only next to 30 pr cent in Sikkim.

Goa had 33 per cent of forests, including 5 per cent private forests, another 5 per cent of area under coastal regulation zone (CRZ), 40 per cent under agricultural land that hardly left 16 per cent land mass for economic development, the Chief Minister said.

Goa Minister for Environment and Forest Alina Saldanha put on record her view favouring 2 km. buffer zone for the State at the last week Cabinet meeting which decided to recommend 1 km. as buffer zone. She said as per the CEC itself, if the wildlife sanctuaries were contiguous to one another, the buffer zone should be 2 km. “The buffer zone of 2 km is for the contiguous wildlife sanctuaries, which is there in Goa. As far as a bird sanctuary is concerned it can be 100 metres as there is no activity around it,” she said, sources close to her told The Hindu on Monday.

Opposed

Environmental activists Rajendra Kerkar and others have opposed the 1 km decision.

Mr. Kerkar told The Hindu on Monday: “That is because it will not serve the purpose for which protected zones are established. It should at least be 3 km.”

Anti-illegal mining activist Ramesh Gauns who has been in the fore front since M. B. Shah commission inquiry against illegal mining was on said: “For mines which are more than 50 hectares, it must be 10 km and at least 5 km where the mines are less than 50 hectares”.

Mr. Claud Alvares of Goa Foundation whose public interest petition demanding action on Shah Commission report has brought the mining activity in Goa to a grinding halt told The Hindu that their view was that any decision on demarcating buffer zone had to be taken only after considering the recommendations of, the report of Western Ghat committee headed by environmentalist Madhav Gadgil, those in the draft Goa Regional Plan 2021 and of the CEC.

The Goa Mineral ore Exporters’ Association (GMOEA), body representing miners and ore exporters has opposed the State government’s decision to recommend a buffer zone of 1 km and 100 m. for wildlife sanctuaries and national parks and said that the total forest area in Goa was about 38 per cent of the geographical area, of which, less than 7 per cent area where mining happens was considered to be forest area and these mines had been accorded all the requisite government clearances, both at the State and the national level. The Cabinet’s decision to demarcate eco-sensitive buffer zones of 100 metres to one km around wildlife sanctuaries and national parks will have an adverse socio-economic impact in these regions.



Only agriculture and eco-tourism to be allowed in buffer zone

Environmentalists want the area to be 3 km from the sanctuaries


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