Sunday, April 5, 2009

MoEF approves Mining in areas near Mollem NP

PANAJI: Despite a Supreme Court ban and a state government task forcerecommendation, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has approved mining leases within a one-km range of Bhagwan Mahavir wildlifesanctuary at Molem based on applications filed by three miningcompanies. The task force had recommended a one-km safety zone aroundnational parks and sanctuaries as eco-sensitive zones -1.The environment ministry cleared the proposals based on thecontentions of the chief wildlife warden (chief conservator offorests), Goa that these were old leases of Portuguese period, andalso that the lease operators had ensured enough safeguards to preventadverse impacts on environment in the area.The three firms, Hede Groups, Achuta V S Velingkar and V M Salgaocarand Brother Pvt Ltd had sought to expand within the one-km zone of thewildlife sanctuary, which forms part of a mega biodiversity hot-spotof the country. The lease sought to be operated by Hede is barely 650metres from the limits of the Molem national park and requires thefelling of 2,128 trees in nine hectares of land. In the case ofVelingkar, the lease is located within 160-400 metres from thesanctuary limits while the third one is just 550 metres from thesanctuary, seeking to mine in 8.627 hectares of area in addition to49.735 already mined.The Supreme Court had earlier referred the matter to the NationalBoard for Wildlife (NBWL), but its non-official members had opposedthe proposals in view of the apex court ruling which banned mining inprotected areas. The twin sanctuaries in Molem form part of themajestic Sahyadri range of hills and are endangered bio diversityhot-spots with rare species of flora and fauna.The Task Force had also recommended that the one-km zone (marked ondraft RP 2021) be treated as ESZ-1, taking note that a number of minesare located close to such zones. The final report on forests submittedby the state level expert committee had also revealed that a total of1110.81 hectares of forest land has been diverted for mining purposeand 547 hectares more as a buffer for mining activity.The Task Force had recommended that all mines operating in ESZ -1 or 2be mandatorily phased out within five years.Meanwhile, Claude Alvares of Goa Foundation said the decisions wouldbe challenged before the apex court.

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