Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rich Lands, Poor People. Is Sustainable Mining Possible? Goa Mining Province Declared Ecological Disaster - Mining Jobs Decline 30%

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has called for strengthening regulations for managing the environmental fallout of mining.

Instead of benefiting people, mining has impoverished environment and displaced people, the new-Delhi based CSE has said and made a forceful plea for a new model of benefit sharing, which includes devolving funds for social amenities, a trust fund, preferable shares and direct payment to landholders.

The CSE — in its 356-page, sixth State of India’s Environment Report titled ‘Rich Lands, Poor People. Is Sustainable Mining Possible?’ — says: “The answer is to revamp policies so that mining does not happen at the cost of environment or people’s livelihoods.” The report was released here on Monday by Goa Governor S.C. Jamir.

Describing Goa’s mining as “an ecological disaster,” the report says the State needs stronger regulations to manage mining in the backyard of people’s homes, on farms and in forests. Its recommendations include recognising the people’s right to say ‘no’ to mining, preparation of independent, and impartial environment impact assessment reports, a moratorium on mining in biodiverse and locally important forests, codification of the best mining practices, and framing stronger mine closure regulations.

The report disputes the contention that mining is essential for “growth or employment.” Addressing press persons ahead of the release of the report, authors of the report and CSE Director and Associate Director Sunita Narain and Chandra Bhushan argued that the data showed that some of the least developed and most polluted regions of the country were mining hotspots.

Drop in employment

Employment in mining was going down due to mechanization, Ms. Narain said. The study showed that mining grew by 10 per cent while employment declined by 30 per cent. Therefore, mining should not be allowed without the consent of the people and if the environmental and social costs outweighed its economic gains.

Ironically, Ms. Narain said, “we have not come across a single case where people objected to a mining project during the public hearing and [so] government has canceled mining.”

In the national context, mining has, contrary to government’s claims, done little for the development of the mineral-bearing regions, says the report.

Here is the full article.