MEASURES TO REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF GEM MINING
D.K.N.G. Pushpakumara1 and H.C. Panditharathna2
1 Department of Crop Science, Faculty of Agriculture,
University of Peradeniya.
2 Sampath Bank, Avissawella.
Sri Lanka has reasonable endowments of mineral resources in relation to
its size. Gems have been the most economically valuable resource accounting
for more than 90% of all mineral exports in the country. Despite the relatively
high economic and social benefits gem mining cause significant environment
A field survey was conducted using a semi-structured questionnaire in
selected assistant government agent divisions of Rathnapura district during
the period August 1998 to November 1998 to identify the environmental
damages and possible practical measures to minimise such problems. Discussions
were held with officers involved in the gem mining industry and miners
under different mining categories. Wherever possible, information was
also collected from direct observation and field surveys.
Results of the study revealed that several environmental impacts are obvious
in the Rathnapura district due to gem mining namely, natural soil erosion,
sedimentation, water pollution, removal of vegetation cover, flooding,
landslides, ground water depletion, risk and/or damage to wild life, reduction
of irrigation efficiency, health problems such as malaria, reduction of
potential of agricultural lands and other damages including cracking walls
of houses and man made structures. Results also indicated that small and
large scale illegal mining is fairly widespread even in rivers despite
regulatory measures. License holders usually neglect the license rules
to get high profit. Supervision of mining activities is very low due to
corruption in low enforcement agencies and lack of officers.
Modern techniques should be used in gem prospecting, fines and security
deposits should be effectively used to rehabilitate abandoned gem pits,
issue of licenses to defaulters should be avoided, license should be issued
as early as possible before wasteful methods are employed by illegal gem
miners, digging too many pits in one place should be prohibited, proper
management and monitoring must be maintained through careful planning,
and participation of the local community to pressurise all gem miners
to minimise environmental damages have been suggested as remedial measures.
Department of Forestry and Environmental Science,
of Sri Jayewardenepura,Sri Lanka. 1995-2000. All rights reserved.