Goa government for slashing buffer zones around sanctuaries

Panaji, Aug 30 (Inditop.com) Contrary to assurances given by the Goa government to crack down on rampant mining in forest areas, its report submitted to the union Ministry of Environment and Forests has recommended drastic reduction of eco fragile zones near wildlife sanctuaries.

Environmentalists as well as opposition parties have slammed the government over the report on eco fragile zone.

Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Shashi Kumar told Inditop that the report, which was prepared by former state revenue secretary Rajiv Yaduvanshi, had, in fact, recommended in some cases doing away completely with the buffer zones around wildlife sanctuaries like Netravali, Bhagwan Mahavir and Mhadei favouring their reduction to “zero metres”.

“The gist of the report, which is pending with the central government for approval, is that the area and extent of eco sensitive zones will be decided on a case to case basis,” Kumar said. The buffer zones were earlier five kilometres.

In some cases, the buffer zones around these sanctuaries will be reduced to less than five kilometres and in some to zero metres, he said. “We have asked the centre to expedite a decision on the report. We are sending them constant reminders to inform us about the status of the report,” Kumar said.

The report, after conducting field inspections, has also recommended that the entire buffer zone along the Netravali and Bhagwan Mahavir wildlife sanctuaries, which are located along the state’s eastern border, shared with Karnataka, be reduced to “zero metres”.

The issue of mining in and around wildlife sanctuaries rocked the recently concluded monsoon session of the state assembly.

The draft mineral policy tabled by the state government also advocates mining in “close vicinity” of wildlife sanctuaries.

Environmentalists have protested against the report. “We have raised our objections to the report with the state government. The sole purpose of the report is to encourage mining,” said green activist Claude Alvares of Goa Foundation, an environmental monitoring action group.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has repeatedly alleged that several cabinet ministers in the Congress-led alliance government were involved in illegal mining.

Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar had also alleged that nearly 18 percent of Goa’s 33 million tonnes iron, manganese and bauxite mining exports were fed by illegal mining. There are presently more than 100 mining leases in the state.