Mining in Odisha – A Necessary Evil

Orissa’s lungs are gradually shrinking as extensive mining continues in different parts of the state. A report published in June 2021 revealed that nearly 57000 hectares of forest land was diverted in Orissa for non-forestry purposes, and 18,500,000 trees were cut down between 2010 and 2020.

Mining involves extracting of useful materials from the earth through primarily two processes – underground mining and surface mining. If done properly and safely while keeping the environmental impact in mind, mining can irrefutably help to boost a region’s economy.

Orissa’s mines have a direct impact on India’s economy and global trade. Steel output in India is expected to increase by a huge amount before 2031, contributing roughly 2.1 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and it is expected to exceed three percent in the next decade, thanks to Orissa mines. Other minerals from Orissa’s mines, aside from iron and steel, have the potential to completely reshape India’s economy.

But the other side of the coin cannot be neglected. Mining destroys the surrounding landscape, forestry, and pollutes rivers and lakes.

It also leads to a type of pollution known as ‘acid mine drainage’, which occurs when the sulphides formed due to mining dissolve in rainwater to produce acids, that drastically affects the aquatic plants and animals. Along with acid mine drainage, the disposal of mine waste can also cause severe water pollution from toxic metals. The toxic metals commonly found in mine waste, such as arsenic and mercury, are harmful to the health of people and wildlife if they are released into nearby streams. Excessive mining results in sinkholes, erosion, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of groundwater, streams, lakes, etc. Mining in Orissa has significantly affected the health of hundreds of people with a surge in air pollution levels.

The Times of India had published a report stating that the “state government had earned a record revenue of more than 13,200 crore during the 2020-21 financial year, largely owed to the mining revenue. When the lockdown was implemented, the government had also named mining as one of the critical services, recognizing the sector’s importance.

Thus, in a place where mining holds immense significance, responsible mining is the only viable solution. Adhering to environmental norms could save the remaining, precious biodiversity of Orissa.

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