Matters concerned with Environment

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maharashtra halts all Sindhudurg mining

TOI impact: Maharashtra halts all Sindhudurg mining
MUMBAI: The thickly-wooded Western Ghats escaped a major ecological calamity as the Maharashtra government this week put on hold 49 mining projects in the verdant Sindhudurg district.

The state mining department's decision to denotify the 49 mining areas in the lush region came in the wake of a series of reports in TOI that highlighted the impending environmental disaster. Days after the first report appeared on October 15, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had written to then chief minister Ashok Chavan demanding a relook at the leases. He followed it up in November with a similar missive to Prithviraj Chavan, the new CM.

Sindhudurg has the highest green cover in Maharashtra and was declared the country's first eco-tourism district in 1997. Over the last three years, the government granted 53 mining leases — many on the basis of fabricated environment impact assessment reports — in the district, of which four are already operational.

''We have called for all files related to the 49 mining leases, including environment impact assessment reports,'' said state environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh. ''It is a known fact that EIA reports are done in a haphazard manner and there are several inherent flaws in them.'' Singh added that a detailed review would be conducted of the operational mines.

The denotification means that companies cannot dig away for minerals in the region until the MoEF lifts its moratorium on mining in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri. It also forces them to seek fresh permissions from both Central and state agencies before applying again.

''The denotification happened after it was found that many areas in Sindhudurg are ecologically fragile and mining may adversely impact tourism in the area,'' a senior state industry official said.

Of the 49 permissions, 32 were granted in the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg area, which has the highest forest cover in Sindhudurg district. The area boasts of rich wildlife and makes up a major portion of the green corridor between Koyna sanctuary in Satara district and the Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserve in Karnataka.

State mining officials believe that minerals worth Rs 10,000 crore lie in the rich subsoil of the Western Ghats.

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