PANAJI: The High Court of Bombay at Goa has imposed ban on granting any more permissions for iron ore transportation from Mayem village in Bicholim taluka till the state pollution authority installs additional air quality monitoring stations for real-time monitoring of the pollution.
The division bench while hearing a plea filed by thr villagers, has directed the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) to install two air quality monitoring stations in the village – one at the panchayat ghar and another at a location recommended by the villagers, until which no ore transport can resume.
The Court pulled up the Directorate of Mines and Geology (DMG) and GSPCB for permitting ore transportation through the village “without application of mind”.
Agreeing to the concern raised by the villagers, the Court has restricted the ore transportation trips to 50 per day between 10 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm beyond which no transportation can be allowed. Transportation will be undertaken from Monday to Saturday only.
“Instead of the 230 trucks which were transporting through the village, there would be only 50 trips per day. They also reduced the timing to 10 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5 pm, which is a total of five hours instead of the earlier 8 hours. This is because the company said that the ore which is already gone to the jetty, we cannot export it unless the balance goes there and there is an assessment,” Adv Norma Alvares who represented the villagers, said.
The petition was filed by the villagers who informed Court that the iron ore transportation was never allowed through their village and the permit issued by DMG is without taking them into confidence.
The HC recorded that out of the 26,000 MT of ore that was permitted to be transported by an order of 28th December 2023 the company started transporting on the 8th of January and from 8th January till 17th January they had already transported 17,000 MT of ore.
So only 5,900 was left balance and the court felt that although prima facie the villagers were entitled to relief, looking at the fact that 3/4th had already been transported, the court felt that the balance 5,000 only and nothing more can go through Mayem villages with certain conditions.
The court has said that two CCTV cameras will also be installed in the village where the connection will be made to the village panchayat where a station will be set up so that the people of the village can look and see the kind of transportation taking place, whether it is covered with tarpaulin, whether the speed limit is there.
Not the question of Mayem only….
The Court said that this is not a question of only transportation of ore through Mayem Village.
“Such issues of transportation of ore through small villages usually arise in the State of Goa, and we find that there is no clarity about the roles of the respective authorities like the DMG and GSPCB on this issue,” it said.
Further, the court said, there is also no clarity on the issue of monitoring and implementation of the conditions that are invariably put in transit permits or clearances that GSPCB or other authorities may issue.
“At least prima facie, we get the impression that there is slackness in monitoring primarily because of a complete lack of coordination between the implementing authorities,” it stated.
Most importantly, court said, there was confusion about the roles the GSPCB and the DMG was expected to play in such matters affecting the lives and properties of the villagers.
Installations of CCTVs
The Court directed that installation of close circuit cameras and additional monitoring stations must be completed as expeditiously as possible and preferably within the next two to three days.
“This is because until then, the seventh respondent should not continue with the transportation through the Mayem village. No sooner the close circuit cameras and the two additional monitoring stations are installed, the seventh respondent can, consistent with its undertaking, commence the transportation in terms of the undertaking given to this Court,” it said.
In case of any breaches, the petitioners are granted liberty to apply.
Action against transporters…
The High Court asked the DMG and GSPCB to file affidavits must also deal with an action plan for implementation or enforcement of the conditions included in the permissions.
“There is no point in imposing conditions to prevent pollution and hardships to villagers if there is no will or proper mechanism for effective implementation. It is not uncommon that considerable police forces are deployed when villagers raise their voices against ore transportation through villages,” court said.
Court observed that while it is improper for the villagers to take the law into their own hands, the Authorities must be vigilant in the enforcement of the conditions imposed for the benefit of such villagers.
“If the transporters disregard such conditions with impunity, strict action must be taken,” court stated said.