The environment impact assessment (EIA) reports submitted by mining companies to the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) came under scrutiny of mining-affected persons and others at a meeting with a Western Ghats’ ecology experts panel at Dona Paula recently.
EIAs are used by the companies to seek environmental clearances to work their mining leases. They are placed during public hearings conducted by the collector through the Goa state pollution control board (GSPCB) to hear views of stakeholders before commencement of mining activity.
Various speakers at the meeting in Dona Paula alleged that EIAs are often fabricated and misrepresent facts about the location of mining areas near sanctuaries, water bodies and archaeological sites. Hartman D’Souza, a participant, said the mining industry needs to be honest. “EIAs are cut-and-paste jobs executed by a Hyderabad-based laboratory and the MoEF should look at its mandate and consider EIAs seriously,” said D’Souza.
A mining consultant countered saying NGOs should also be transparent as they often do not visit the sites before commenting.
Gaurav Shirodkar, a young participant at the interactive meeting, said all false EIAs should be reassessed and till this exercise is carried out, the mining activity being done should be halted. “If not for the false information, the mining activity may probably not have even started,” argued Shirodkar. The fresh exercise should not be entrusted to some impartial agency, he added.
Participant Zarina D’Cunha claimed EIAs are not presented at gram sabhas, while consumer activist Roland Martins called for a monitoring mechanism at the taluka level as agencies such as the Indian bureau of mines are most times conspicuously absent during EIA hearings. The monitoring mechanism could comprise affected villages, Martins suggested.
Reboni Saha of the Goa Bachao Abhiyan said NGOs were interested in helping the mining sector in rehabilitation and greening of mining areas.
Rama Velip, a resident of Colomba affected by mining, said that during the monsoon flooding carries silt to paddy fields, coconut groves and near human habitations.
D V Pichamuthu, director, federation of Indian Mineral Industries said the contours of the western ghats were not demarcated. He agreed that miners cannot excavate and just walk away and rehabilitation will have to be carried out.
The industry is thinking of ropeways in hilly regions for ore transportation and mining operations without blasting at the site.