Plunder the mines

Politician-mafia nexus leaves little hope for scientific mining as environment takes a beating

Published: Friday 15 November 2002

forest, water and biodiversity management don't have powerful lobbies. Mining does. The trouble is mineral exploitation can easily destroy the natural resource base of the poor -- forests and biodiversity, in particular -- unless there is a strong governance in place and a stringent set of regulations that are properly implemented.

If the nexus between the politicians and mining mafia in the Aravalli hills of Haryana is anything to go by, the rot runs really deep (see: Mine games). That the mining operations are continuing in complete contravention of environmental norms and regulations is made worse by the fact that all this is happening right at Delhi's doorstep. One can well imagine what the ground reality is in remote corners of the country or in a state like, say, Bihar where mafia-rule is a way of life.

Government loves to use terms like 'scientific mining'. True, we have legislations and safeguards like the environment management plan (emp) that each mine has to draw up and get cleared for its operations. We have elaborate procedures for grating no-objection certificates (noc) and environmental clearances. But what good is all this legislation if we don't have the ability to enforce and regulate the polluters? The problem is power corrupts and when power and corruption becomes the basis of governance, emps or nocs have no meaning. Of what value, then is scientific mining?

In the case of Haryana, for instance, it is telling evidence that rules and regulations have no meaning when the government has no capacity to monitor. The irony then is that the hand that gives the no objection certificate also doles out mining leases. The unholy alliance of business and politics will ensure that legitimate voices die with a whimper. Scientific mining is just an empty word.

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