The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to the Centre, Goa government and mining companies on a plea for lowering of cap on extraction of mineral ores in Goa from the present 20 MTPA (metric tonne per annum) to 12 MTPA or even lower for the sake of environment and the locals who, it said, were being disregarded by the miners.
A bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta issued notices on an interlocutory application moved by NGO Goa Foundation through advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The NGO said that if the apex court felt that even the cap of 12 MTPA is too high, it may consider bringing it down to 5 MTPA as at that level, mining could be conducted without damage to the environment, since it would be easier to monitor the activity and stop it immediately if violations were observed.
The NGO reiterated its objection to the recommendations of the Expert Committee on the CAP (ECOC) that the cap on mining may be increased from 20 MTPA to 30 MTPA.
"The interim cap on extraction of mineral ores from Goa, recommended by the ECOC, was fixed in a vacuum, when mining had been suspended for several years. It was not fixed after confronting actual mining operations, when started, and their impact on people and environment. These are now already clearly felt and visible since the resumption of mining, even though on a smaller scale. The cap is therefore subject to review, if at any time it is clear that even 20 MT mineral extraction is deleterious to public health and environment or there continues to be absence of infrastructure," it said.
The petitioner highlighted how the mining was regulated through unfair means for over two years with attempts to extend the cap from 20 to 30 MT.
The application highlighted the plight of villagers in Sonshi who have been dealing with negative environment and health impacts ever since mining activities started in the region and how the miners are not able to check the negative impacts even at a cap of 20 MT.
Sonshi village lies adjacent to the cluster that produced the maximum quantities of ore in North Goa in 2016-17.
"The dust and noise pollution generated from the activities of the mining companies have caused a grave damage to the health of the residents of Sonshi village, their water resources, and have also diminished the potential for agriculture and horticulture. The fundamental rights of the villagers have been infringed upon, day in and day out, with no respite. But the recently concluded mining season from October 2016 to May 2017, brazenly breached all norms and limits," it said.
It also shared how children were suffering from eye problems, asthma due to coal mining which even causes noise pollution since the noise of extraction is deafening.