Goa to announce draft forest policy soon

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PANAJI - Facing accusations of tacitly supporting illegal and unchecked mining near forests, the Goa government is set to unveil a draft forest policy this month.

State Forest Secretary Rajiv Yaduvanshi said that the draft forest policy would be placed in the public domain for suggestions before it was finalised.

“The draft forest policy of the state has already been prepared. It will be displayed for the public and a time limit will be given for comments,” Yaduvanshi said Monday, adding that the draft document would include the state’s eco tourism policy.

Of Goa’s 1,364 sq km under forest cover and managed under the national forest policy, about 20 sq km is affected by mining, conservative estimates suggest.

The increasing amount of illegal mining in and near forest areas has repeatedly raised the hackles of opposition parties and green groups, who have accused Chief Minister Digambar Kamat of sheltering illegal mining. Kamat is also the minister for mines.

“Kamat is sheltering illegal mining in Goa. He simply does not crack the whip as far as rampant and brazen theft of natural resources is concerned at the expense of forest cover,” leader of opposition and former chief minister Manohar Parrikar said.

A recent report submitted by Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Shashi Kumar on illegal mining has pointed out that more than 70 percent mining in Goa was without requisite permissions, which include numerous clearances and permits from government agencies.

Mining of manganese and iron is a nearly Rs.4,000 crore a year industry operating out of the 100-odd operational mining leases in the state.

Kumar said the new forest policy would be transparent and would be the Bible guiding the functioning of the state forest department.

“We have kept the basic framework of the national forest policy in mind. It is going to be a document based on which the department will function,” Kumar said, adding that several departments including water resources, mines, tourism and agriculture departments had been taken into confidence while preparing the forest policy draft.

Forest conservationists, who have questioned the government’s ability to stop the rampaging mining industry, however, are sceptical about the moves by the government to “promote and preserve” forests.

“This same government had even recommended reduction of buffer zones near wildlife sanctuaries to zero metres in areas, where sanctuaries are near mining areas,” well-known wildlife conservationist Rajendra Kerkar said.

Filed under: Science

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