Economic aspects are important, so too is environment

Herald Goa, February 13, 2021

Since 2012, when mining operations were stopped in the State, Goa has constantly whined of a drop in revenue and the mining dependents have sought financial support from the government. Yet, there has been no study that can provide data as to the impact of the closure of mining operations in the State. Some data could be available in the future as Niti Aayog, the government think tank, has now commissioned a study to assess the ‘unintended’ economic impact of select Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal decisions and to review if the ‘stated objective behind the judicial pronouncements was met’. Among the rulings that will be taken up for study is the one on stopping iron ore mining in Goa and the halting of consultation of the upcoming international Mopa Airport.

According to the document brief, the study will ‘ex-post examine the unintended economic consequences of key judicial/quasi judicial decisions and review if the objective of the judicial decision was met’. It further states that ‘judicial decisions have far-reaching economic impacts which are often not taken into account at the time of decision making’ and that ‘some of the recent judgments/orders of the Supreme Court of India (SC) and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) indicate that the economic impact analysis of judicial decisions is yet to gain broader acceptance’. Such a study will definitely throw light on a lot of areas that have until now remained clouded.

Doubtless there have been economic impacts due to the stoppage of mining operations in the State and these would be far-reaching, affecting the government as well as the people. There were direct impacts as well as indirect ones, and the study can be expected to enumerate these. Goa’s finances have suffered and the government has often complained that revenue has dropped due to the stoppage of mining operations. This, of course, would be a natural corollary of the stoppage of mining operations and could not be unexpected. The exact quantum of the economic impact that this decision had will be known once the study is completed. 

But there is another aspect that needs to be taken into consideration. The objective of stopping mining operations was the rampant illegal mining that was taking place during that period. The Supreme Court ruling did end this illegal mining, but the people involved in the illegalities were never brought to book. Over eight years later, the mining cases are still being investigated and the losses that the government faced due to the illegal mining are still to be recovered. These run into thousands of crores of rupees. Had the losses been recovered, would the economic impact felt due to the closure of mining have been mitigated to a large extent? Had not mining operations been stopped, would illegal extraction have continued in the State? These are also questions that this study should focus, as they are relevant to the State. 

On the other hand the halting of consultation of the upcoming international Mopa Airport may not lead to a major economic effect on the State. It has delayed the project, with the completion date having been pushed further but there were reasons for the SC decision that found deficiencies by the project proponent leading to the grant of the EC. When it lifted the suspension it was based on the assurance of the concessionaire that it would adopt a “zero carbon programme” in the construction and operational phases of the airport.

When infrastructure projects are halted there will doubtless be economic impacts, but there are also unmitigating reasons to stop the projects or pause them. Economic aspects are important but so too is the environment and, as in the case of mining in Goa, complying with the law in operations.

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