BY NANDKUMAR M KAMAT
It is high time that sustainable mining in Goa is strategically linked to Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and state supported trade in Carbon Emission Rights (CERs). Governments in Goa completely lack imagination and are found always at sea when it comes to technology forecasting and strategising.
It is exactly the reverse in state of Gujarat. The basic problem of all the governments which have ruled Goa is the inability of their political leadership to prioritise the real issues like forecasting and strategising for sustainable mining because they all plan for an ephemeral period of five years and most of the time is spent on pampering the people with unproductive goodies.
Missed the CDM bus
Goa has already missed the bus in carbon trading. Narendra Modi’s Gujarat is leading the country with 17 per cent share of CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) in India. But his party’s government in Goa is yet to make a statement on CDM. Goa government can generate wealth to the tune of Rs 200 to Rs 500 crore annually by strategically linking ecological restoration and rehabilitation programme (ERRP) of most affected areas in mining belt to clean development mechanism (CDM). The planning commission supports state specific ERRP. There are adequate funds with Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) which the state government has failed to claim by submitting need based projects like ERRP. The state government would wake up only after the apex court delivers its judgment to plan for Goa’s ERRP. India already enjoys 15 per cent share of CDM trade. A carbon credit is equivalent to a metric tone of carbon emission which is absorbed by two mature trees. The value of a carbon credit (CER) fluctuates between Rs 200 to Rs 500. Planting just twenty million metal tolerant trees in degraded mining areas would be equivalent to roughly ten million metric tones of carbon. There are numerous other avenues in Goa to plan and generate CERs- like producing eco-friendly building bricks from the polluting mining reject by using the easy to use hydraulic machine developed by engineer Anthony Dias from Loutolim.
Nature reclaiming its own
ERRP would generate employment in many sectors. Both ERRP and sustainable mining can coexist. Is there scope for ERR linked to sustainable mining? On Saturday, as a part of my ongoing geochemical and paleontological field investigations, I completed a tour of major mining region of north Goa’s BIF-BHQ belt (banded iron formation-banded hematite-Quartzite) to know fist hand the ecological and economic conditions after halting of the mining activity. Between Mayem to Pissurlem, I could see hundreds of trucks and mining machinery lying idle. In front of some houses there were half a dozen ore carrier trucks. The fresh coat of paint showed the owners had not anticipated the closure of mines in September. The otherwise busy mining roads between Mayem to Valpoi had very little traffic. The old mining reject dumps at Mayem had luxurious vegetation and at Pissurlem, Goa’s most overmined zone, the crest and slopes of another large mining dump was found fully covered with original vegetation. Many elevated dumps were found to be covered with plastic sheets to avoid erosion and air pollution. The main gates of mining companies displayed prominent notices about closure. Large tracts of land near the village roads not showing any impact of mining such as clay and silt deposition in fields were found to be kept uncultivated instead of bringing these under intensive agro-horticulture. These are the areas to be actively brought under ERRP. The locals complained about lack of reliable irrigation facilities. I was convinced that it is possible in this whole belt to practice ecologically and economically sustainable mining. Although Shah Commission was a big disappointment in suggesting a paradigm shift in favour of community oriented, profit sharing sustainable mining – there is now some hope from Justice Mr Khandeparkar panel.
The new model of iron ore mining would need specific microzoning based on a professional geochemical and natural resource mapping. The over mined regions and mines which have gone below the groundwater table could be identified for ecological and hydrological rehabilitation. Fortunately we have world class expert geohydrologists like Professor A G Chachadi at Goa University, who could head such efforts and they have the ability to convert a problem, a challenge into an opportunity.
Tourism in mining areas
But there are developments which the state government has not revealed to people. On September 22, 2012 a report appeared in Ahmedabad edition of Times of India on a company called Cluster Pulse led by founder and mentor Jagat Shah, which is supposed to plan tourism in mining areas of Goa. Cluster Pulse has entered into a MOU with CES Clients, a Canadian company for development of mines and minerals tourism across the country. The aim of this collaboration seems to be to develop mining pits as tourist attraction spots. The story informed us that – ‘The organisations will create recreation activities around closed and functioning mines to give tourists a feel of the mine, its history and also an overview of the life of workers at the mine. The organisations have also developed a technology which will give people the experience of a mine blast.” Cluster Pulse’s founder Jagat Shah had claimed that their technology will create a mining scenario, where a person can be stimulated to actually experience the vibration and the sound of the blast along with the temperature during mining.” The news also stated that this team has been roped in by the Goa government for its pilot project and the team also plans to approach the Gujarat government after it completes the Goa project. No doubt the Goa state mining policy circulated in August 2010 had mentioned about tourism in mining areas. But even before the finalisation of the policy and its acceptance by the cabinet, the above development has occurred. Since September, a lot of developments have taken place on issue of legal and illegal mining. Collaborations like Cluster Pulse and CES clients have been apparently roped in without any multi -stakeholder consultations or awareness. The state government has shown allergy to the very idea of ecologically and economically sustainable mining. Goa is going in reverse direction. (To be concluded next week).