A view of an open pit of a mine in Codli village in Goa. Photo: Reuters/Krishna Das/Files
New Delhi: With sand mining – a major source of livelihood for people in Goa – affected by the 2011 notification for Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ), the state government has urged the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate (MoEFCC) to amend the rules to allow mining from flowing rivers, according to a Herald report.
The 2011 notification prohibited sand mining in CRZ areas. Construction activity in the state has been affected following a ban on sand mining by the high court in September 2019.
According to the Herald report, the Goa government has proposed an amendment only for the areas that reputed scientific institutes studied and allow sand mining through traditional means.
Nilesh Cabral, Goa’s cabinet minister of power and non-conventional energy, told Herald, “In Goa river beds do not get dried up during the non-monsoon period. We have requested the MoEFCC to amend the CRZ Notification 2011 and allow the state to extract sand from flowing rivers by traditional means.”
He believes that this will protect the livelihood of sand extractors and meet Goa’s developmental needs.
The state government’s move comes after 26 gram panchayats of Goa approached the Supreme Court in November 2020, seeking the restarting of mining activities. The Supreme Court had banned mining in the state on February 7, 2018.
Since the last three years, people whose livelihood depends on mining activities have been observing February 7 as a “black day”.
Sandeep Prabhu Pauskar, sarpanch of the Sanvordem panchayat, told Business Line that one-fifth of Goa’s population depends on mining.
“Goa’s revenues have plummeted due to the closure of the mining industry”, Puti Gaonkar, president of Goa mining people’s front told Business Standard.
However, “mining of sand per se should not be a problem”, according to Antonio Mascarenhas, a former scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa.
Sand deposits are composed of silica or quartz, the most dominant mineral constituents of earth.
“Sand generated due to erosive processes ultimately finds its way towards the ocean. The sensitive issue is how much sand can be extracted and from where,” he told Herald.
The Goan reported that in February 2021, the NIO had submitted a report to the state biodiversity board, assessing the environmental impact of six out of 12 sites along the Chapora river in Goa.
It suggested that 33.20 lakh cubic meters of sand can be excavated from these sites. The report for this has been presented to the division bench of the Bombay high court at Panaji.
The NIO has also completed the study of the Mandovi river coastline, and the report is expected in April 2021.
“Existing laws are snubbed and let sand mafias to proliferate. Natural sand is a part of the ‘commons’ and is meant for collective benefit, it is not the property of a selected few.” Antonio Mascarenhas from NIO added.