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Not enough in the state budget for environment
March, 28th 2012

The Goa budget 2012-13 evoked a mixed reaction in the context of environment as social activists and environmentalists welcomed various measures, including rejuvenation of agriculture and water bodies, but pointed out that the budget lacked any specific proposals to prevent further environment degradation.

Mining activity has destroyed agricultural lands and deprived villagers of their means of food, Margao-based social activist Siddarth Karapurkar said. "Ploughing back revenue to restore agricultural fields in the mining belt will provide a much-needed impetus to the agricultural sector," he said.

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar has assured that his government will take into its custody large ore deposits washed off into agricultural fields. "If found feasible such ore deposits will be auctioned and the proceeds will be used to rejuvenate the affected agricultural land," Parrikar said in his budget speech.

But Bicholim-based social activist Ramesh Gauns termed the approach to major problems as only administering first aid.

Gauns said, "The budget has undermined the environment, as it has no specific proposals to prevent further degradation."

Referring to the government's resolve to halt illegal mining, Gauns said, "The 100-odd legal mines have totally destroyed Goa's economic potential and that should have been focused in the budget," he said.

Parrikar has declared zero tolerance to illegal mining. "Next year, I will not allow even a rupee worth of illegal ore to be exported," he assured in the assembly on Monday.

Parrikar also promised to utilize 60% of the revenue for infrastructure development, especially mining corridor. "But he has not announced any specific measures to rehabilitate mining areas," Gauns said.

Mining impact has not been analyzed on the ground as irreversible impacts on water bodies, forests and agriculture have not been properly studied. The state produces over 50% of the country's ore for exports.

On the other hand, Karapurkar said desilting of ponds, lakes and water bodies in mining areas and other parts of the state would also complement the process of reviving agriculture. Citing the example of Cavrem, a village in Quepem, he said its rich biodiversity, agricultural lands and water bodies have been adversely impacted by mining activities. "These water bodies can be even used for pisciculture," he said.

Parrikar has spelt out a few other measures for agriculture, which have been appreciated by farmers and groups supporting them. One of them is a minimum support price of Rs 90 per kg for raw cashew nuts and a hike in assured price of arecanut sold at present at Rs 100 per kg to Rs 170 per kg.

Gauns said the Parrikar government may have bowed to compulsions from various sectors to draft a populist budget. "Rather than look ahead for only one year, the government has to look for a solid foundation for the future. But it seems to be complying with expectations of the huge chunk of over 80% voters in the assembly election," Gauns said.

Parrikar also assured a fitting tribute to late Matanhy Saldanha, former forest and environment minister, in his budget speech.

Green entrepreneur Ajay Gramopadhye said Parrikar has assured a sustainable growth in the mining industry. "But there is no specific announcement in the context of environment in the budget," he said. And yet, Parrikar can consider reconstituting Goa state wildlife advisory board. "He can galvanize it to take up environment issues," he said.

During an interaction with the stakeholders from the industry, organized by Confederation of Indian industry (CII) Goa chapter, Parrikar has promised to look at environment-friendly products in more detail, as per suggestions from entrepreneurs. "He has assured to look into the matter to tap such products in the context of renewable resources," Gramopadhye said.

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