The New York-based Human Rights Watch has slammed EIA reports, on the basis of which permission for mining in forest land has been granted throughout India, terming the EIA regime as a “rotten core of a broken system”. This, in fact, was well known amongst those who matter, but precious little was being done to salvage the situation, primarily because those in the system were beneficiaries of the lucre.
Even the current BJP government, which was elected to power on the plank of corruption, particularly in the mining sector, is perceived to have failed to lift a finger to stem the rot. Grass root environmentalist Ramesh Gawas has openly declared that the government has been making attempts to camouflage illegalities in mining. Protection of environment is not a priority for the government of the day. This, because policies which are deter mental to environment often brings in payoffs to some of those immoral policy makers. It should not surprise therefore, that though the Western Ghats is a home to more than 5000 varieties of plants, 450 birds, 140 mammals and 260 reptiles, a large number of which are unique in the range, there is no serious effort to protect these species and, flora and fauna spread over 1,600 kilometers over the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Even across the border in Amboli, where roadway cutting across the fragile epicenter of biodiversity, a common sight is dead reptiles, killed by speeding vehicles. Nobody cares for the destruction of this wildlife, though various name-sake legislation exists. The skin of a fully grown tiger was discovered at Porvorim this week, but what is the statistics of poachers apprehended in the Western Ghahts region, when it is well known that poaching in the region goes on unabated — some with the blessings of politicians.
While Prof Madhav Gadgil report has not been specific on the length of the buffer zone for Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries, he is clear that it should run into several kilometers. How then, can the government even moot the controversial Mopa airport project, opposed by local farmers of the region and promoted by vested interests, including real estate mafia? The airport and accompanying noise of flights landing and taking off will scare away wildlife: Taxing of aircrafts awaiting landing permission over a distance of 30 kilometers radius, at an altitude of 20,000 feet is certain to trigger chaos in the Western Ghats habitat.
Governments now-a-days often delay implementation of pro-environment recommendations, justifying that it would impediment development. Paradoxically, destruction of environment in the name of development is regarded as something positive, when eventually it leads to decline in quality of life. So, what development are we talking about? The Western Ghats has huge reserves of iron ore, basalt and bauxite, attracting indiscriminate plunder. This is abetted by poor monitoring, leading to degradation of environment. Flooding which was unheard of in Bicholim area a decade ago is a regular phenomenon — thanks to rampant mining.
Dismal governance and lopsided policy has failed to strike a balance between conservation and so-called development. Now that a draft policy on mining will be in place next month, and considering that the Ministry of Forests has invited reactions to the Gadgil recommendations, it is hoped that sanity will prevail in the system.