Panaji, Feb 23 (IANS) The opposition in Goa Tuesday said that Chief Minister Digambar Kamat took union Minister for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh ‘for a ride’ over the issue of mining permissions in the state.
Reacting to MoEF’s direction Monday ordering a ‘moratorium on consideration of mining proposals for environmental clearance from Goa’, senior Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) leader Manohar Parrikar said there was a huge multi-crore scam vis-a-vis renewal of environment clearances granted to mines over the last two years.
‘Almost 80 percent of environment clearances (EC) granted in last two years are a fraud. There are instances where ECs are granted to persons even when they don’t own the land,’ Parrikar said, adding that he had exposed these cases in the state assembly.
Saying that Ramesh’s integrity was ‘beyond doubt’, the former chief minister said: ‘The MoEF should investigate the environment clearances granted during last two years’.
‘I don’t doubt the integrity and sincerity of Jairam Ramesh. What he has done is better than doing nothing. But I suspect that he was taken for a ride by Kamat,’ Parrikar said.
Earlier in the day, the chief minister’s office said Kamat was against allowing new mining leases in the state.
The chief minister’s media adviser Suresh Walve had also credited Kamat for the moratorium on new mines in Goa rather than Ramesh.
‘It is because of a letter from the chief minister to the MoEF earlier this month, asking that no new mines be allowed in Goa, that the said moratorium has been ordered,’ Walve said.
Walve had however outright rejected requests from this correspondent for a copy of the official letter from Kamat to Ramesh, seeking a ban on new mining in Goa.
‘I can’t give that to you. You can ask under right to information, but that may take two or three months,’ Walve said.
The moratorium could come as a dampener to the state government, which under Kamat, has been often criticised by the opposition and anti-mining activists for ‘bowing to the excesses’ of the state’s Rs.6,000 crore mining industry.
Kamat has recently said the state government was entertaining 246 applications for new mining leases in Goa, in addition to the 100 odd already existing iron and manganese ore mines which dot the state’s hinterland.
Villages in close vicinity of these mining areas have often served as virtual battlegrounds for mining companies and anti-mining activists, with the latter claiming that open cast mining was causing ecological havoc in the region by denuding forests and upsetting the ground water levels due to haphazard drilling for ore.
Leader of opposition Manohar Parrikar has repeatedly alleged that Kamat and several of his cabinet colleagues were sheltering illegal mining operations, which the former chief minister said, accounted for nearly 18 percent of the total ore exports.
Nearly 33 million tones of ore is extracted and exported annually from the state.