No mining within one km of national parks, sanctuaries in Goa

Mining would not be permitted within one km of national parks and sanctuaries in Goa, the Union Environment Ministry has decided in an order that could take the State one step closer to restart iron ore excavation in a regulated fashion.

The Ministry passed the order to this effect on Thursday resolving one of the several issues requiring a solution to restart regulated mining in the coastal State.

It ordered that areas ranging up to one km beyond the boundaries of the national parks and sanctuaries in the State would be declared Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 where mining activities would be banned.

The Justice Shah Commission had reported that mines had flourished in the heart of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the State without the clearance from the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife, as mandated by the Supreme Court.

Subsequently, mining was suspended here. A case is also being heard by the Supreme Court. The Ministry, after ordering suspension of work, had begun to re-evaluate each existing mine for its environmental clearances under various green laws.

Following up on an earlier Supreme Court order, which had so far been flouted, the Goa government also sent proposals to the Centre for declaring ESZs around protected wildlife areas. The Supreme Court had demanded the Centre and States to decide the boundaries of the ESZs across all protected wildlife areas or let a 10 km periphery around them be accepted as ESZs by default.

The State proposed that natural features around the boundaries delineating the six wildlife areas be used as the limit of the ESZs. The Ministry has set up a committee under the chairmanship of National Tiger Conservation Authority chief Rajesh Gopal to study the proposals. The committee found that in many cases the natural features suggested as boundaries of the ESZ ended up within a few hundred metres of the parks. The committee, instead, recommended a zone of no-mining up to one km from the boundary.

Accepts report

It also recommended that mining be banned in these areas in future and existing mines around two of the six sanctuaries should be phased out over time to ensure there is no sudden loss of livelihood for the people. The Ministry accepted the report and has ordered that in cases of Bhagwan Mahaveer and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuaries, mining would be phased out.

With the case still on in the Supreme Court, the Ministry said that the draft notifications for each sanctuary would be subject to the final decision of the apex court.

Areas around the parks will be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Zone

The Environment Ministry has started to re-evaluate all the existing mines

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