Goa could have one-km buffer zone around forests

Panaji, June 14 (IANS) Goa may have a one-km buffer line around its forests, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said Friday, adding that 25 mining lease areas are located within the proposed buffer zone which would ring the state's wildlife sanctuaries.

Parrikar was speaking to reporters after returning from New Delhi, where he spent the past two days meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Planning Commission officials and officials of the union ministries of mines and environment and forests.

"The centre could allow a one-km buffer... Around 25 mines are located in that area," Parrikar said.

Three of Goa's five wildlife sanctuaries are ringed with mines, some of which have been in operation since the time of the Portuguese colonial rule.

While a large number of the mining operators have been repeatedly hauled up for illegal operations, green activists have argued that no mining should be allowed near wildlife sanctuaries.

Mining has been banned in Goa for six months now, after a judicial committee exposed a Rs.25,000-crore illegal mining scam involving politicians, bureaucrats and mining companies.

A recommendation made by the Goa government to the union ministry of environment and forests a decade ago had suggested a zero-km buffer zone, an idea that was rejected.

Parrikar says the one-km buffer zone could be a fresh start. He also added that the government would take strict action against anyone indulging in illegal mining in forest areas.