Vajpayee's axe over mining degradation

| 08 April 1999 23:25 IST

Vajpayee's axe over mining degradation Getting worried over the environmental damage mining has caused to the interior parts of the tourist state, prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee appears to have flexed his muscles to repair it by pouring in central assistance in Goa.

Following a demand made by the local BJP unit during the recently concluded national executive meeting here, Vajpayee made an announcement in this regard at a public rally, which was literally converted into election campaign launch, eyeing on the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Mining has remained a backbone of economy of this former Portuguese colony right from its liberation in 1961 while private mine owners' lobby has controlled all the local governments till date, no matter what political party they belong to.

In fact, Goa's first two chief ministers - Dayanand Bandodkar and his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar - belonging to the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party were the mine owners who ruled the tourist state till 1979.

Though the seat of power then went into the hands of the Congress, the lobby still remained dominant in the state politics even after emergence of equally powerful lobbies of contractors, five star hotels and builders or real estate developers till recently.

The local environmentalists, citing these facts, allege that the state authorities have always neglected the environmental damage mining caused in the hinterland, in the form of dust pollution, water pollution, air pollution while ruining the fields, rivers, wells and forests. Even local MLAs' woes go unheard in the Assembly while mining houses also control the local media.

Extraction of mineral ore, which has remained here in the hands of private sector till date, has however generated tremendous amount of unemployment while also getting major share of around Rs 2000 crore of foreign exchange the state earns annually. Its over one crore tonnes of iron ore extracted every year is considered to be highest in the country.

But with the lobby politics shifting its fidelity from the mining lobby and environmental movement gaining momentum since '80s, the government finally assigned Tata Energy Research Institute to prepare a report on environmental damage mining has caused in Goa since its inception. Recommendations of the report are now under serious consideration of the authorities.

Making use of the fact that its party is ruling in the centre, the local BJP has now pressed for its speedy implementation, demanding financial assistance of Rs 100 crore, to be utilised to construct roads, providing pipe water, repairing the silt damage, forestation on heaps of mining rejects and even rehabilitation of a few helmets.

"We are happy that the prime minister is convinced about the fact that both the mining industry as well as people at large would be ultimately affected if damage control measures are not implemented immediately", says Manohar Parrikar, the local BJP spokesperson.

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