Say proposed changes fail to prevent unchecked exploitation of resources
The draft notification issued by the government, revising the mining laws under the Kerala Minor Mineral Concession Rules (KMMCR) of 1967, has evoked sharp criticism from experts who feel that the proposed changes had failed to ensure environmental safeguards and prevent unchecked exploitation of resources.
Environmental scientists fear that the draft rules awaiting formal clearance would only perpetuate unauthorised quarrying and the unscientific licensing system responsible for alienation of vast tracts of government land in the State. They say the lease conditions and permit systems in KMMCR 2014 lack uniformity and clarity. The new rules are posted on the website of the Department of Mining and Geology (DMG).
Says C.N. Mohanan, member of the former State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), “The original rules were framed in 1967, at a time when the population density was low, demand for materials was less, and mining was mostly manual. The new rules, however, stick to the original mode of permitting and leasing quarry areas, without considering the topography, settlement pattern, and use of high-end machinery and explosives. There is no effort to revise the provisions that give room for violations of rules in mining and quarrying.”
Experts have called for abolishing the short-term mining permits issued by DMG under the Consolidated Royalty Payment (CRP) system. “Many of the illegal quarries in Kerala are functioning under the CRP system,” says Dr. Mohanan, former Head of the Environmental Sciences division at the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS). The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Madhav Gadgil had estimated that there were about 2,000 illegal quarries in the State.
Another SEAC member John Mathai, who is also a scientist at NCESS, says the revised rules lacked clarity about the safeguards to be adopted for quarrying. This, he fears, could lead to unsafe practices of quarrying. He argues for replacing the CRP system with a more scientific method of taxation based on the average monthly/annual production that can be verified periodically.
Director, Mining and Geology, D.P. Sreekumar says the Government Order formalising KMMCR 2014 is expected to be issued shortly. The CRP system is likely to be replaced with a new taxation system, once the department switches over to the e-governance regime.
Experts feel the government should refer the revised rules to a panel of EIA experts before notification.