Senior scientists studied environment impact assessment reports, other paperwork, found they grossly neglect biodiversity aspects
At a time when the destruction of natural resources around us has become a matter of serious alarm, a group of eminent Pune-based scientists have revealed how the bypassing of environmental safeguards has allowed severe mining excesses to deplete biodiversity in the Goan section of the Western Ghats.
Their study uncovered scores of environment impact assessment (EIA) that underestimate matters, due to which massive damage caused by human activities goes underreported.
The research was undertaken by noted scientist Madhav Gadgil, Agharkar Research Institute researcher Mandar Datar, and Sujeetkumar Dongre from Centre For Environment Education (CEE), Goa. They studied around 65 EIA reports of mines in Goa, revealing how many biodiversity aspects are often neglected and not even mentioned in such reports.
The findings were revealed after a thorough assessment of the quality of EIA reports, compliance of environmental clearance (EC) conditions, and adequacy of environmental management plans (EMP) of the mining industry in Goa. The report was compiled in 2013 and its findings published recently in the journal Current Science, on September 10 this year.
CEE Goa’s Dongre told Mirror, “Manifold deficiencies were observed in the data documented on biodiversity in the mining areas of the Western Ghats. These inaccuracies will lead to loss of agricultural production, besides depletion of groundwater levels and supply. Natural waterbodies like water springs and other sources will also be impacted. In the documentation we studied, oil, water and soil pollution eventually resulting in the loss of fish and shellfish and coastal fisheries, along with sedimentation, were all not reported. Destruction of sacred groves and unique habitats were also absent in the report.”
Dongre added that an increased socio-economic divide due to unequal distribution of resources, the loss of employment in the fisheries and forest sector, and various other issues were also not included in EIAs.
ARI’s Datar explained, “Mining causes a heavy impact on the environment, especially in a sensitive zone like the Western Ghats. The Environment Protection Act (EPA) exists to protect such unique aspects and address them. However, all such important facets have been lacking in paperwork, which we found during the study.”
He added that the documentation of flora and fauna is improper. “No detailed mentioning of species is carried out in the studied habitats. Inadequate data and deficient information was also found in the reports,” Datar said.
Besides exploring the faults, their published paper has also recommended mitigation measures.
“Despite discrepancies, there are a lot of provisions that could be made to address lacunae. Existing laws could be implemented strictly,” said Padma Bhushan awardee Gadgil, adding that increased public participation in such processes at the local body level and empowering biodiversity management committees could help. The researcher also blamed corruption in the system for facilitating faulty environmental clearances, saying this is responsible for degradation of the environment.
The senior researcher added to Mirror, “I have experienced cases where people and consultants have been hand-in-glove, just to underreport or manipulate an EIA, to pave the way for mining activities. Effective implementation of laws and cutting down on corrupt practices could be achieved via participatory policies. Such suggestions have been made in our report to make it more inclusive. A more transparent system should be evolved.”