Sunday 17 July 2011

Breached bund causes havoc in Mulgao

Times of India, July 17, 2011

Rajendra P. Kerker

Mulgaon (Bicholim): A breached settling pond's embakement at Vedanta's Sesa Mining Corporation's Bicholim mine, wreked havoc in the village of Mulgao on Saturday morning, destroying horticultural plantations and agricultural fields and causing losses estimated at Rs. One Crore.

The gushing waters also washed away three locals who, luckily, survived; while mining silt has entered Xetrapal and Mahadev temples.
A major tragedy was averted as the incident, which occurred at 7.15 am, happened 4-5 minutes after a KTC bus carrying about 40 students passed along the road which waters inundated.

Sources said a massive water pump being used by the company over the last few days to pump out excess water, was also washed away.

Talathi Satyavan Naik, appointed by the Bicholim mamlatdar to asses the losses suffered, said, "Twenty horticulturists and farmers from Mulgao have suffered losses amounting to Rs 60 lakh, besides fields being damaged by mining silt". Bicholim Mamlatdar pramod Bhat, said, "A meeting of the villagers and mining company officials is convened for Monday at 10.30 am, to discuss the losses suffered and also to find out what precautionary measures were taken by the company to avert this incident." He added that the mining firm is "responsible for compensating the farmers".

M.K. Reddy, general manager, Sesa Resources, Bicholim mines, said in a press statement: On Saturday morning at Bicholim mine, due to heavy rainfall, bund of settling pond breached and water has entered adjoining areacanut plantation and paddy fields. The water has silted the adjoining fields.

There was no damage to any human or settlements. Company is taking adequate steps to repair the breach and other necessary precautionary measures on an immediate basis."

The three persons carried away by the waters are Shripad Raut, Rupesh Parab and Rajaram Parab. Shripad, who was washed about 100m away, was saved as he held onto a betelnut tree and remained there for over and hour. his brother Sakaram, who came looking for him, rescued him. Its rebirth for me...I was sure I was going to die. I was saved only because my brother reached me just as I began to lose the strength to hold unto the tree." the 60-60-year-old told STOL.

Rupesh and Rajaram saved themselves. All three were hospitalized at the Bicholim  primary health centre. While Rupesh and Rajaram were later discharged, Shripad was under observation till late evening.

Tulsidas Parab, a resident of Mulgao, said, "The mining company has destroyed the natural rocky layer which protected the water bodies. Our vodle tolle (lake) is totally silted and we have become victims of irresponsible mining activities."

Ramesh Gawas, an environmentalist from Bicholim, alleged, "Indiscriminate destruction of precious water bodies is rampant in Bicholim's mining areas. It is a criminal offense. Government should keep Mining companies consent to operate in abeyance since mining activities are not being carried on according to the mining plan."

This is the third major calamity at the mine in Mulgao. On june 13 1981, many places in the village were flooded causing considerable damage to property. In July 1991, four died, six were seriously injured and 1 farmers lost the output of their paddy fields due to a similar incident at the mine.

Health minister Vishwajit Rane, Bicholim MLA Rajesh Patnekar, deputy collector Narayan Gad visited Mulgao and have assured necessary assistance to the affected villagers.
Inputs by Pritam Chodankar

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