Ramesh Gauns, an environmental activist, had been battling the government, against the clearance for five years
Ramesh Gauns, an environmental activist and a primary school teacher from Sarvona village in Goa has been battling the government, which cleared a mining project in his village, for almost five years. He emerged victorious on March 29 when the Delhi High Court annulled the environmental clearance given to the project to mine iron and manganese ore in his village in North Goa.
The proposed project by Zantye & Co Pvt Ltd was cleared by the Union environment ministry in 2007. Gauns filed a petition before the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) against the environmental clearance, contending that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was “inadequate and faulty”. According to him the EIA excluded a number of important ecological and geographical features of the region. For example, there was no mention of the 100,000 square km area of cash crop plantation close to the lease boundary, 23 borewells that are within the lease area, 17 hectares of agricultural land that will be compromised and an “open-mixed jungle”. There was also no plan for disaster management for the lease area even though the area surrounding it is a low-lying floodplain of the river Bicholim. He added many of these concerns were voiced during a public hearing but were not taken into account.
NEAA, in September 2009 dismissed the appeal, concluding that the clearance was environmentally sound. Gauns then moved the Delhi High Court.
“The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of MoEF failed to take into account the objections raised by the public against the grant of the environmental clearance,” noted the high court in its judgment.
The bench further questioned the involvement of M L Majumdar, chairperson of the EAC at that time. He was then also the director of four mining companies in Goa, thus biases might have crept in while reviewing such proposals.
As per the ruling, any consideration of the project in future “should be subject to the present moratorium imposed by the government of India on th e new mining proposals in the state of Goa”.