Saturday 20 October 2012

Goa's great mining plunder - Part 6

Environmental destruction due to mining

Sebastian Rodrigues, October 2011 

Brazen open cast mining currently underway in Goa is nothing short of collective genocide of mulnivasis by the brahmanical state. It has created large scale unemployment and food security for human as well as for animals by rapidly destroying the paddy cultivations. It has also destroyed water bodies and made mulnivasis dependent on mining companies for the sake of availability of water. Industry has forced mulnivasis to abandon agriculture and become truck owners in mining transportation.

Investigations reveal that large number of people in Pissurlem have opted to buy trucks and get into mining transportation trade due to close down of agriculture option. Some families have earned money to buy cars afford a life in comfort. How one does judges this? Mining companies are also supplying with monthly doles to families in Pissurlem as a trade off for silence of the Villagers. So people have got into the habit of accepting the monthly doles and become insensitive to the collective ruin of the habitat and life support systems. New mining leases in the meanwhile continue to get activated. Few years ago this village has suffered massive floods due to mining activities. Mining silt that got deposited in inside the people’s houses was over one meter thick.

The village of Sirgao in Bicholim stands out in this context. The number of people in the village that are challenging the three operating mines in their village – Dempos that is taken over by British corporate Vedanta, Chowgules, and Bandekars. They filed public interest litigation in Goa bench of Bombay High Court in June 2008. The court directed Nagpur based National Environment Engineering Institute (NEERI) to conduct scientific study. NEERI submitted its study in March 2009 confirming that mining activity has caused depletion of ground water in the village causing drying up of village wells and springs. It also confirmed that large amount of deposition of mining silt has taken place in the agricultural fields of the village and paddy cultivation has not been possible. NEERI submitted the plan to rejuvenate the water sources and remove mining silt from paddy fields at the cost of approximately 1.8 lakhs per hectare. The total amount that mining companies would have to pay to NEERI to restore Sirgao’s agriculture and recharge groundwater is Rs. 660.25 lakhs. What is the story of Sirgao that is proved scientifically is the story of every village under mining in Goa. Water and Food security of Goa is deeply threatened.

Colamb is another village in South Goa’s Sanguem taluka that is currently battling mining industry. The number of mining leases are 23 that are covering large area of  Colamb village. The village has total areas of 1929 hectares and mining leases covers 1510 hectares of land. The mining leases cover places of habitat, forest, natural water bodies, paddy fields and everything else on the surface of the village. Already in the past 10 years couple of mines that are operating in the village has destroyed considerable amount of agriculture. Alcoholism has increased many folds in the mining belt with increased problems of alienation amongst both the locals as well as migrants. Destruction of agriculture and forest and everything else becomes a priority for the mining companies to carry on advancing into the newer territories. Large variety of vegetables that people – mostly tribals cultivated has vanished as the cultivation spaces has been occupied by mining companies. The local river named Kushavati – tributary of Zuari river - began to dry three years ago in the month of May. This year State government has constructed check dams on Kushavati river. But this is not the solution. Stagnant water do not support any fish that used to be available in the river for the local people to eat. Now there is no fish. The huge trees on the banks of Kushavati rivers are affected with stagnant water and as a result trees – according to local people’s wisdom – are dying. So it is double problem of mining as well as the problem of river being artificially flooded. Both of these are dangerous downslides as far as standard of people in the locality are concerned.

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