Can the air that we breathe be bought by money? In a decision that could finally reduce substantially pollution due to mining operations in the State,
Can the air that we breathe be bought by money? In a decision that could finally reduce substantially pollution due to mining operations in the State, the Goa State Pollution Control Board has decided to seek a bank guarantee from the mining companies with the assurance that there will be no air and water pollution in the vicinity of their mines. At a meeting at which it was to decide on the consent to operate to 12 mining leases at Sonshi, which were cancelled due to dust pollution in the village, the pollution control board, took this new decision to make a bank guarantee mandatory for its consent to operate under the Air and Water Acts.
The arrest of the 45 men and women of Sonshi and the days and nights they spent in jail, until they were bailed out by a mining company will not go in vain. The decision by the pollution control board has come purely due to dust clouds that had enveloped Sonshi, forcing the villagers to protest and leading to their arrest. When the villagers were unable to pay the bail amount and remained at Colvale jail, Herald reported on their plight, which brought in the government attention and led to a mining company coming forward to meet the bail bond.
As a consequence of that, mining companies will now have to produce a bank guarantee and they stand to forfeit it, if they fail to control the air and water pollution in the vicinity of the lease area. As the Goa State Pollution Control Board Member Secretary said, there is need to be ‘little stringent towards the mining firms’ and the bank guarantee would be one way of keeping them in line, as the amount in question is quite substantial.
Though a final decision on the amount of the bank guarantee is yet to be taken, companies that have leases that are over 100 hectares in size will most likely have to produce a bank guarantee of Rs 50 lakh, while those whose lease area is between 50 hectares and 100 hectares may have to produce a bank guarantee of Rs 25 lakh. The bank guarantee to be produced by companies that have smaller lease areas will be of around Rs 12.5 lakh. With just a fortnight for the ongoing mining season to come to an end, companies have been given the choice to decide whether to produce the bank guarantee now or in October, when the ore extraction season starts afresh.
Yet, it is not just the bank guarantee that will decide whether the mining companies get the consent to operate from the pollution control board, but they will also have to present a plan to control dust pollution and the consent will be allotted only if the board is satisfied with the measures to mitigate dust pollution.
For decades people living in mining areas have complained of mining dust and water pollution and drying up of ground water resources. To meet the water needs of the villages, mining companies have even supplied water to the villagers through tankers. For the first time there is now some hope for the villagers that the air they will be breathing and the water they will be drinking will be free from pollution or at the least with reduced pollution levels.
This decision that the Goa State Pollution Control Board has now taken should have come a long time earlier. All it took was being just a ‘little stringent’ with the mining companies. It, however, is still a start towards giving the ordinary residents of the villages in mining areas their right to clear air.