Saturday, May 31, 2008

On Biases and Silences in Goa RP 2021 Interim Report

Critique of Interim Report of Goa Regional Plan 2021 prepared by Task Force in April 2008

By Sebastian Rodrigues
Mand - An Adivasi Rights Resource Centre,
An initiative of Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED)
Dulapi, Goa

Nature, Environment, Society and Transformations (NEST)
Chorao, Goa

31st May 2008

Perhaps it would have been better idea for those who concerned about Goa, its people, its nature and its mechanisms of maintaining civil liberties and defending freedom to start planning for what I call Goa Freedom Plan 2061. In 2061 we in Goa would be completing 100 years of liberation from colonial yoke of erstwhile Portuguese rulers for few centuries; in some parts of Tiswadi taluka it lasted for 451 years!

Perhaps it would be better idea to thinks through the parameters of freedom: do we as people possesses capacities to preserve our privilege as free people or are we heading towards enslaving ourselves into another long period and may be even irreversible process of bondage at some power? Are our capacities to thinks, reflect, mobilize and network sufficiently expanded to take on the tide that confronts us?

These thoughts come glaringly across my mind as I read through and reflect on Interim report of the Goa Regional Plan 2021 prepared by Task Force in April 2008. The plan is a well orchestrate exercise to subvert spaces of freedom currently available and in its place institute rule of Capital to enslave everyone in Goa. Let’s examine the report from this perspective here.

1. The report seeks to implement bottom up as well as top down approach simultaneously (pages 5-6). It is absolutely ridiculous that two approaches be implemented simultaneously. It is without doubt that the actual intent of the brains behind the report is top-down approach. It is only for accumulating legitimacy that the bottom-up is mentioned without any responsible position. Transferring entire responsibility to an NGO called Peaceful Society is a deliberate irresponsible escapist action on the part of the State of Goa.

2. ‘In the ultimate analysis planning is what we want to become’ is one sentence that stands out bold on page 7. The question however is that to whom does ‘we’ refer to? Does it refer to the Industry, Beaurocrats, Businessmen, professional, migrants, labour, women in margins, Adivasis, oppressed groups within Goa, Real Estates, Gamblers from all over the world; who wants to shape Goa for 2021? The report does not give any direct answer but deductions can be distilled after careful reading between the lines. ‘We’ refer to those powerful lobbies with floating capital to invest and shrink spaces of Freedom.

3. Table 4 on page 11 projects decline population of three Talukas in 2021: Bicholim, Canacona and Pernem. What are the factors that are going to be causing this decline in population is entirely missed out. What is the basis of these projections?

4. Page 12 however makes it ample clear as to the shape that is sought to be given towards transforming Goa into another metro by 2021. It audaciously presents that large number of villages will be absorbed in municipal fence and will be re-classified as municipal. It even predicts that 12.60 lakh people will live in municipal area and 5.40 lakh people will be left in Panchayat jurisdictions. Undoubtedly it is the real estate/builders are behind these projections as without rapid constructions these projections will never become a reality.

5. The same page 12 goes further to add that Pisciculture will flourish that means more breakage of Goa’s bands in Khazan lands can be expected to be actively encouraged. It also notes that cash crops like Cashew and improved paddy cultivation will flourish. Note here improved paddy cultivation is referred as cash crop and we could only expect that likes of Syngentas, Monsantos, Zuaris will not only continue but further tighten the grip on Goa’s food systems. Now you know to whose interest this report is serving? It is catering to big Indian Capitalists like Birlas and Multinational companies from all over the world.

6. The source and methodology of projection is again at the mercy of guess work on page 12. Regarding workforce it projects 54% to be in tertiary sector, 25% in Secondary sector and 21% in primary sector. The basis of this projected change is not disclosed and hence its projection methodology is defective to the core.

7. In spite of requests by some presenters, the very real threat to Goa’s coast due to rise in sea level – thanks to global warming - has been deliberately ignored. There is not even an indirect hint on as to where the coastal people are going to be relocated in the event of submergence of he coasts. This ignorance is understandable. This is where projection exercise was needed and report has failed in this again. If the coastal populations are to be relocated in the hinterlands, hinterlands must be life worthy. Rampant mining in the hinterlands has made these areas devoid of life worthiness. The question remains to all of us where are coastal people going to be resettled once the sea level drives coast into uninhabitable situations?

Perhaps the State of Goa plans to offer sacrifice of its people to the Arabian Sea. This question has remained unanswered mainly due to the domination of the mining industry. It has been instrumental in suppressing this entire issue so that their ongoing export to China goes uninterrupted. Who cares for the people any way – they may be coastal people or the hinterland people? Mining determines everything in Goa.

8. Corporate desire to shape up Goa again has come to the fore on page 20 when it is proposed that State establishes land bank. It suggests that land be given in custody of land bank till 2021 to protect it from conversions. This suggestion is only to transfer control of land in the hands of those powerful corporate houses that will be controlling the State of Goa. So you know who is behind this suggestion as well!

9. There is another legitimizing attempt when the report declares on page 20 that “Land acquisition be strictly used for government projects. If not land be ideally reverted back to its owners.” There could not be any bigger joke in the report than this; when the real need is to push for repeal of Land Acquisition Act due to such an intense abuse of this law - anything under the sun gets classified as public purpose i.e. golf course, starred hotels, industrial estates, etc – report has chosen to cover itself up in rhetoric of return of land to the owner. The dividing line between the pubic and the private has been steadily growing thinner. In fact the State itself is becoming privatized. This is a biggest threat inbuilt into the report for the parameters of Freedom.

10. On page 21 it is given that contribution of mining sector is in Goa amounts to 4% of GSDP for the year 2005-06. Why comparative analysis not undertaken for the past 50 years of mining trade in Goa and arrived at mature understanding on this? Now what you make out of this statistics that says contribution of mining is 4% of GSDP and geographical area it occupies is 8% of Goa? Why task force did not recommend discontinuation of mining trade in Goa? That is because mining companies not only have been effectively influencing this report but also has Minister of Mines as its chairman that also happens to be Goa’s Chief Minister.

11. Similarly statistics on agriculture has been presented in tricky manner. On page 22 it points out that Agriculture contributes 5.6% of GDP but occupies largest amount of land – 1367.81 Sq. Kms in 2005-06. Report what actually remain short of saying that agriculture as an option is to be closed and all land to be diverted either for mining or for industry or for real estates. In addition no reference is present at all to the Puran Shethi lands that have been submerged due to erecting of mini dams inside Mhadei River. Section on agriculture does not take into account loss of crop lands already due to various so-called development projects.

12. Similarly on the same page 22 report talks of Coconut groves but does not utter a single word about how much loss of Coconut groves already taken place in projects similar to Aldeia de Goa in Bambolim where in over 5000 coconut trees were chopped down to make way for luxury tourism.

13. Page 23 mentions about Kullagars – Arecanut cultivations – in Sattari, Ponda and Sanguem. It is indeed very crucial to question as to why Kullagars in Bicholim not referred at all. Is it because mining activities there have erased it from the memory? Also there is no estimate on future of Kullagars in Sattari and Sanguem in the context of rapid mining expansion plans. And of course there is absolute silent as to how the once owners of Kullagars – adivasis: Gawdas - have now become the laborers on the Kullagars and ownership has been fraudulently shifted in the hands of Brahmins. Mere elucidations on productions - that are absent in the report though - is not enough, one needs to get into discussion on equity as well.

14. Page 25 admits mining is creating negative impact on agriculture. However report suffers from major defect that it does not have any statistics on how much agricultural land is lost to mining for the past 5 decades and what projected loss of agricultural land is for the next two decades.

Also there is no data on loss of agricultural land due to irrigation projects such as Puran Shethi on Madei River, Irrigation Pipeline in Carambolim that blocked farmers’ access to the fields, and Submergence of agricultural spaces due to constructions of Dams on various rivers in Goa.

Report comments that traditional horticultural cultivation such as coconut, Mango, areca nut cashew and pineapple is ignored. Report does not try to unravel the causes to this not does it take into account where in cultivators are force to stop the cultivation of these due to open cast iron ore mining invasion.

15. Then out of blue comes an unusual statement on page 25: agriculture was a backbone of Goan economy. The point however is that in which period agriculture was a backbone of Goan economy. Why the authors of this report fail to identify the period? The report however does not make any comments on what is the backbone of Goan economy.

16. Page 26 is full of technical suggestions to manage Goa’s Khanzan land. It proposes to scrap tenancy Act to promote agriculture, transferring of maintenance of bunds to Panchayats, Formations of ‘Agency for planning and management of Estuarine and Khazan Areas’, and formation of ‘Integrated Estuarine and Khazan Area Development plan’. Clearly through these mechanisms the orientation is sought to be brought in where in the control of Khazan lands will shift increasingly towards State. The countless number of skilled people who reclaimed these lands from the Arabian Sea and various rivers for so many thousands of years have been conveniently forgotten at the stroke of pen.

17. Agriculture department has been assigned role of providing technological inputs to farmers with ‘better seeds and farming techniques’. There is however no audit of the existence of indigenous variety of seeds in Goa and how new seeds and practices have been introduced since 1961. Also there is no specification of what better seeds and farming techniques means. Better for whom? Farmers? State? Multinational Corporations? Fertilizer Companies? Pesticides companies? Seeds companies? There is absolutely no elucidations in task force report on these issues. Why?

In fact the report goes one step forward and suggests exploration of Contract farming. This is another way of handing over control of agriculture to the corporate houses. How do parameters of Freedom weigh in all this?

18. Page 31 talks mentions about protecting common grazing rights. Wonder why a routine violation of grazing right in Khotigao Wild Life Sanctuary has been overlooked here. Why is that trenches have been dug preventing cattle from wondering in their traditional grazing lands? What way common grazing lands proposed to be protected – no detailed outline available in the report. In which case, the report reduces itself to mere rhetoric.

19. Page 33 alerts us that Forest produce seems on decline. The use of words like seems in the planning documents like this one are unacceptable. The document reduces its credibility tremendously. Even with the entire government machinery at its command with Chief Minister as its chairman outcome as guess work is unacceptable. The situation either has to be confirmed or rejected. If confirmed that factors needs to be identified as to why Forest produce is on decline. What measures needs to put in place to increase the same.

Similarly, on Forest Policies the report is silent on future of Monoculture plantations that Forest department has been carrying on for the past four decades in Goa. It is also silent on closing down and cancellation of mining leases in Forest areas including inside Sanctuaries and buffer zones. So one can safely conclude from this position that ongoing honeymoon of the forest department with mining companies will continue into 2021 until entire forest lands disappear forever.

20. When it comes to fishing on page 37 the report is understandably silent on siltation of rivers like Zuari, Mandovi and Kushavati due to mining and resultant decline in fisheries. This is deliberately created siltation so that Goa’s rivers will be continuously at the mercy of mining companies. The report is also silent on dredging policy in the rivers like Sal for the benefit of Casinos and luxury tourism. It is silent on measures on making fish available to local population at affordable price.

21. On Page 40 Colamb mining struggle finds its echo in the report. It is recorded that the village of Columb in Sanguem taluka, where 22 mining leases are awaiting revival will cover 14 sq. kms out of total village area of 19 sq. kms! It admits that agricultural village is under the shadow of being completely consumed by mines. Task force however restricted itself in expressing helplessness as current laws permits only paltry compensation and there is no provision for any relief. Now this is indeed very frightening situation that after knowing Colamb case Task Force has refrained from recommending cancellation of the mining leases. Also it has refused to learn lesson from Columb and order investigations into other villages under mining leases and present maps of the villages that are likely to go extinct. Task force is either incompetent or is being dictated by mining companies in its agenda.

In fact it on page 42 task force lifts up solution from mining companies books and attempts to make it the solution of the State government when it recommends “Social condition of the people in mining villages to be improved and the mining companies to upgrade existing water supply, sanitation facilities and provide up-to-date health facilities in the mining belt.” With this recommendation task force confirms that it is so vulnerable and actually played into agenda of the mining companies. Mining companies will destroy natural village water bodies like the one that is being done in Sivsorem mines in Sanguem and then mining companies will influence State government to get water pipeline from Salaulim water Dam! What logic is this? Or take the example of Kond village in Rivona Panchayat jurisdiction: entire village is selected for mining and the habitat of people in the village is very soon going to be history. In few years time you will not find anything else in the village other than mining pits! Task force ironically suggests that abandoned mines then be used as water reservoirs!

Ridiculous positions of the Task Force does not stop here, on Page 42 it recommend mining even in the Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) – I with the permission of the Environment and Forest Ministry which is so easy to get in exchange of a brief case or two like how 73 mining leases got clearances in the past couple of years that too with People’s opposition at the time of conducting mandatory Public Hearings under the law.

Besides, the report is silent on how many water bodies have been dried up due to mining for the past half century in Goa. The silence is unacceptable; Task force must labor hard and present these statistics in the report and so also projections of how many more water bodies to go dry in the next two decades.

Page 43 declares to promote Eco-tourism, Heritage tourism, Event tourism and Medical tourism. It only misses Mining tourism to explain to the world how Goa’s mining industry and the Goan and Indian States has been shrewd butchers of nature and it’s People? Undoubtedly it will be huge success. There is nothing like marketing Goa’s biggest scandal in tourism market. Task force ought to take serious cognizance of this suggestion as it is destined to fetch huge foreign exchange for government of India. Innovative thinking is important!

22. Task force not only has completely failed to address adivasis in Goa – they seem absent – on the contrary it has selected one tribal village – Dharbandora - for special treatment. It mentions on page 85 that under the tribal sub-plan low cost sanitary units will be provided to few tribal villages, one of them being Dharbandora in Sanguem. On the one side through the sanitary units it tries to assert its legitimacy with the tribal population, on the hand it does something very dangerous. On page 47 it mentions about setting up of Hazardous Waste Centre in Dharbandora. In fact it mentions that it is already functioning. There is no information as to how decision was arrived at to locate this Centre in tribal area, when was it located? What has been its performance report? What are the regular health monitoring mechanisms put into place in Dharbandora and surrounding villages? What are the benefits to the village due to the setting up of this Centre? Which are the industries that are dumping their hazardous waste in Dharbandora? Syngenta – Swiss multinational company has admitted that it is dumping its hazardous waste in Dhabandora in its recent REIA report for expansion and it was criticized by Dr. Claude Alvares for doing this at February 29, 2008 public hearing at Old Goa. According to the Survey report on the scheduled tribes of Goa released by the Directorate of Social Welfare, Government of Goa, in February 2004, Dharbandora village had 1,913 tribal households. It is village with highest tribal households in Sanguem taluka and they have been given toxic treatment. Task force supervised and legitimized this entire episode.

23. Task Force report has inbuilt bias against beach shacks. It is because it champions the cause of the luxury tourism. On page 50 it identifies shacks on beaches as source of pressures of tourism. It has failed to look at take over of large tracks of lands in many instances tribal Homelands for the luxury projects purposes. Aldeia de Goa has been asserting tremendous pressures on Nauxi and Bambolim villages. The expansionists’ designs of Fort Aguada Beach resort (owned by Tatas) threatened to take over Sinquerim Plateu for Five Star hotel. Morjim Beach is continuously eyed by Five Star hotels. Canacona Beaches are continuously preyed by agents of luxury tourism. Current locations of Starred hotels blocks public access to the beaches. Starred hotels like Leela Beach Resort in Cavelossim was built by cutting down of large number of precious sand dunes. The water that is diverted for luxury tourism is several times more; task force ought to provide these statistics. Instead is has become unacceptably silent on this count too.

24. Without providing performance report of the existing government housing boards, on page 56 report suggests setting up of land estates on the lines of Industrial Estates exclusively for building affordable houses. The process followed here to arrive at decisions is inherently defective.

25. On Health front page 61 presents frightening statistics is thrown out: In Goa, majority of cases that occurred have been due to acute respiratory infection. In 2006, 25,559 persons have suffered due to this cause. Pulmonary tuberculosis reported is 2228 during the same period. However task force has not attributed any causes for this. Why? Also there is no geographical spread sheet is presented, as well as time line data of these diseases since 1961 is provided. Indeed very sketchy and superficial engagement with the subject without any devotion whatsoever.

26. 'Goa university to be Central University' is a good recommendation on page 69. Not only will it make education affordable like in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi but also it will stopped politicians from Goa messing up with University system including appointment of Vice Chancellors. Presently cost of education is very high and has become almost unreachable as State in Goa thought it was wise to keep education within the confines of economically well off. The point however that is missed is the land that is used for setting up of Goa University is actually tribal homeland used for cultivation purposes. There is no recognition of this fact at all anywhere.

27. Page 68 points to the scenario where in from 1990-2006, 106 government schools got closed down (82 primary schools and 24 middle schools). During 2006-2007, 103 government primary schools were having enrolment below 10. There is no explanation in the report for these drastic developments on education front. Has primary education in Goa reached crisis situation?

Further quoting Madhav Kamat report of 2006 task force report points that 50% of all government schools have no toilets, 10% have no electricity, 37% have no water, and 64% have no compound wall. What the task force missed is, how many schools have been disrupted due to mining activities? Primary school at Sonxi near Pissurlem is half under mining dumps. How many schools are going to be uprooted with mining expansion plans? Projections to this effect must be made available by Task Force. Without paying attention to these basics of education Task force subtly goes ahead in recommending IITs and IIMs for Goa. IITs in India has been major source of brain drain; wonder from where this idea has come to Task Force.

28. While talking about water on page 79 report has conveniently glossed over water bodies including wells that are dried up due to mining. This is a gross unaccountability on the part of Task Force. What is going to be water availability in the scenario of all the mining leases getting activated in Goa? No projections are presented in the report. Its suggestion however, to implement education in water conservation at school level is good. The question is - Will mining activities leading towards drying up of water sources slashing down of mountains figure anywhere in the syllabus?

The report is silent on mining threats to Public Water Supply: threats to Opa Water Works, Salaulim water dam, Assanora water works etc. This is a most criminal neglect on the part of task force.

Table 24 even provides factually doubtful information: it points that WTP in Canacona on River Talpona supplies 5 MLD water to Sattari taluka including Valpoi and other 4 villages. Is water from Canacona coming to Sattari? Map No. 4 of Regional Water Supply Scheme does not indicate this. Why this factual confusion introduced in the report? The report is also silent on water meant for irrigation being diverted for industry and luxury tourism.

29. There are some important observations on ground water havoc created by industry, mining and tourism, it says, “Industry is the highest consumer of ground water meeting half of its demand through this source. In some areas of the State, especially the mining belt people prefer to use water from wells over piped water especially in the monsoon because the quality of piped water is poor due to high turbidity. In the coastal areas too there is a high level of ground water extraction because of a higher demand-supply gap.” The report overlooks situations of villages like Pissurlem in Sattari and Mayem wherein village well goes dry from November onwards. In Mayem alone 300 well go dry in summer. While in Pissurlem villagers have to depend upon mining companies for the supply of daily water requirements through water tankers. Task force ought to spend at least a week in each of these villages to understand ground reality of ground water scene. Also serious notes needs to be taken of villagers that are up in arm in Colamb, Advapal, Saleli, Sarvan, Cavrem and other parts of Goa covered by mining.

On page 82, Ground water contamination sources are identified as due to mining, Coastal aquifers due to sewage contamination, Sea water intrusion in coastal aquifers due to high extraction in summer, urban sewage, solid waste and industrial disposal and industrial effluents are threats, Agricultural pesticides, fertilizers, agricultural waste disposal pose pollution threat. Although these sources are identified there are no firm steps suggested to check and stop ground water contamination.

Report however is quick in providing solution to water shortage to the industry on page 83: “the supply of raw water directly to industry would reduce the demand for treated water. This should be immediately undertaken.

30. SEZ seems still on the agenda of the State; on page 88 dealing with power supply needs the following is inserted: “if Goa focuses on promotion of industrialization such as food parks, SEZs, cold storage chains, infrastructure development etc, demand for power for overall development will be high power intensive and it may touch 1500 MW”

31. In the Eco-Sensitive Zones ESZ-I includes “land that need to be regenerated: these includes all inactive/closed/dormant mines and mining wastelands and dumps.” Now what guarantee is there considering demand from China that these mines are no going to be activated again with the permission of course from the Ministry of Environment and Forest as provided for in this report itself?

Perhaps it is better idea now to begin work on Goa Freedom Plan 2061.

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