Today a lot of state governments promise companies investment opportunities free of ‘encumbrances’. Investors are assured of government assistance in securing requisite clearances for projects. Sample, for example, the following sentence from a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between an international investor of a high profile project and the Orissa government. “The government of Orissa shall assist the Company in obtaining all clearances, including forest and environment clearance and approval of the State Pollution Control Board, and the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 for opening up the iron ore mines, laying roads, constructing township etc,” it says.
The minerals sector is a key driver for the country’s industrial growth. However, it has brought in its wake severe environmental repercussions and social conflicts. One of the greatest challenges, therefore, is how to make mining environmentally and socially acceptable. Unfortunately, most EIA/SIA reports either overlook or poorly interpret the critical issues related to a mining project.