Goa

Goa says mining should be allowed below water table

Panaji, Feb 16 (IANS): Mining in Goa should be continued, even if excavation operations are carried out below the water table, the Goa government has said in its affidavit before the Supreme Court.

The apex court is hearing a public interest litigation on rampant illegal mining in the state filed by a local green NGO and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

The affidavit responds to the findings of the Supreme Court's central empowered committee (CEC), which recommended that mining below the water table should be allowed only in "exceptional circumstances and with adequate checks and balances".

"It would be unfair to state that mining in Goa should be restricted to a depth that does not go below water table; it would be an impossible condition and would amount to indirectly banning all mining in Goa," the state's Principal Secretary (Mines) Rajani Kant Varma has said in his affidavit, filed before the apex court Friday.

Varma also told the court that Goa's "peculiar geological condition, heavy monsoon, high rate of percolation" and also environment clearance issued by the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), mandatory for mining operations, does not bar mining companies from extracting ore below the water table.

"The environment clearance (EC) issued for carrying out mining operations does not impose any restriction of not going beyond water table or fix any depth below which mining should not be carried out," Rajani Kant said.

The official however said that the state government had resolved to appoint an expert agency to undertake detailed EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) of mining operations in Goa and assess the "damage of aquifers and impact on water table and water recharge, the quality of surface and ground water besides compliance and identify leases that have violated conditions of the no-objection certificate by pollution control board or EC".

The hard-hitting CEC report had taken a stern view of rampant mining below Goa's water table, which the CEC report said was already "affecting the water availability in nearby areas."

"It has also been represented that such mining is resulting in increased salinity of ground water and that silt deposition from the mining overburden has degraded soil fertility in adjoining agricultural fields. Almost all the dug wells have dried up," the report said, advocating thorough studies before mining operations are permitted.

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