Monday, September 22, 2008

Its monsoon yet Sirgao wells are dry due to mining

Monsoons are still to get over in Goa, it has been raining heavily over the past few months here, springs are flowing and wells are full to the joy of one and all. Yet this is not the case in Goa's mining belt like Bicholim taluka's Sirgao village. The village wells were seen empty and springs has no water to ooze out.

One of the Senior villagers is Vasant Gaonkar "If our wells are dry in rains, what do you expect to happen in other months?" "Our ancestors settled here due to water availability several years ago. Mining now has made our village inhabitable." Quips Gaonkar.

Gaonkar has been one of the vehement voices against the destructive mining industry that is manifested in the form of three mining leases that operate in this village - Dempos, Chowgules and Bandekars. "They were told not to disrupt water level from January to June 2 year ago. We never had water shortage before. But today 52 natural springs of the village has gone dry. Only one has water. When I settled here in 1964 there was plenty of water in Sirgao. Now if the mine are closed then we may get water after 25 years. Mining cannot be allowed at the cost of village. Our village has 70 people that are employed in mining activities while 250 people have lost their agricultural livelihood. And all of our 73 mines in Sirgao has gone dry." Speaks out Gaonkar.

The mining leases that operate in Sirgao are Bandekar operate T.C. 4/1949, Chowgules operate two mines 05/1949 and 13/1949 while Dempos operate T.C. no. 15/1941 that covers villages of Sirgao as well as Mulgao.

When Chowgule mines were visited by me on September 13, 2008 they were operating 4 water pumps of 190 horse power inside the mining pit. The depths of water table in Chowgules as well as Bandekar mines of Sirgao was 16 meters below Sea level. The actual depth of the mining pit is still deeper.

This is yet another story of mining tragedy in Goa. To believe you must visit Sirgao and see mining disaster unfolding right under the the nose of Goa government that has gone blind, deaf and dump long time ago. Funeral of Goa is on cards very soon, ghosts from mining belt once get let loose will hound the State authorities like never before. End of water is end of life of planet, the point is what is our choice: life or death? if you choose life then support Sirgao's struggling people, support it to bounce back to life, demand Sirgao mines be closed down forever for nature and its once majestic life supporting mountains now needs time to heal. You will understand this if you feel mountain's feel. I do.

Sebastian Rodrigues

Goa Education department releases mafia on RTI applicant Durgadas Gaonkar

RTI applicant Durgandas Gaonkar is faced with mafia threats released by Goa's education department. Durgadas Gaonkar is a president of Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) and this is his first letter under Right to Information Act that was devised to bring about transparency in the governance process and to checkmate rising corruption in the Government functioning.

Durgadas first filed application under RTI as the president of GAKUVED but the education department rejected the application on the ground that President of any Organisation is not legally entitled to file the application. Then he filed again as individual but was rejected on the ground that it is not caring Court stamp fees.

Then on Saturday September 19 a four wheeler Maruti car landed near his house in Dhulapi with man and a woman in it doing various inquiries on Durgadas and his family as well as his profession.

Then on September 20 at around 7.15 pm a man walked into Durgadas's Panjim venue and threaten Durgadas to withraw his RTI application in education department within next 5 days. Durgadas refused to do so. Then Durgadas was warned of dire consequences if he does not withraw the application. Durgadas fearlessly told him to do whatever he wants to do immidiately.

Durgadas' hang out place - Goa Store - opposite Cafe Bhonsle was visited by 3 member mafia team on morning of September 22, 2008 but Durgadas was not there. This visit was meant to instill fear in Durgadas.

In the meanwhile GAKUVED team that is spread all over the State of Goa has taken strong note of the mafia released by the Goa State Education department and demanded to know as to how mafia got the information of the RTI letters with the Ministry. There is clearly nefarious nexus between the Education department and Mafia in order to cover up the deep rooted corruption and irregularities.

GAKUVED has launched the campaign to defend the right to defend freedom of speech and expression and condemns Goa State Education Ministry for their mafia links.

The campaign that will unfold in the days to come includes requesting citizens to fight mafia assault on freedom of speech and expression in the form of pressure tactics on Durgadas Gaonkar making large number of applications to the State Education Ministry as it pricks mafia in their uncomfortable zone. We need to rescue constitution of India from Goa's hoodlums that are threatening ordinary citizen's right to expression.

Please go throught the letter below that attracted mafia attack and file as many RTI as possible. Please include your own dates on the applications in your names. Citizens of India from all over India are requested to file this RTI in your names.

Come let's join hands to defeat mafia in Goa!

Durgadas G. Gaonkar,
Dhulapi, Corlim, Ihas - Goa.

Date: 15-09-2008

The Public Information Officer,
Asst. Director of Education (Planning),
Directorate of Education,
Panaji - Goa.

Sub: Request for Information under Right to Information Act, 2005


This is to request you to furnish the following information under Right to Information Act, 2005.

1) Certified copy letter No.DV/HSS72/08-09 dated 03-06-2008
2) Certified copy of letter No.DE/HSS/PLG/294/pt. V(2)/474
3) Certified copy of the Minutes of Departmental Selection Committee selecting Mrs. Sebastiana Dias as Tr. Grade-I
4) Certified copy of Proforma I, II, III, IV & V sent vide letter No.D.V.H.S.S./118/08-09 dated 24-06-08.

The necessary fees as required shall be paid. Kindly do the needful at the earliest convenience.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,


(Durgadas Gaonkar)

Sebastian Rodrigues

Saturday, September 20, 2008

VIDEO: Goa, Goa, Gone ...

Goa, Goa, Gone ... 22 mins documentary. Directed by: Kurush Canteenwala‏

Mining is Goa's second-largest industry after tourism. 8% of this state's land is already under mining, mostly for iron ore. Now, mining activity is intensifying across the state. So is the opposition of citizens to this unregulated industry. This Infochange documentary explores the impact of mining on Goa's environment – one of the world's 12 biodiversity hotspots -- and livelihoods.

Click here to view this video.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Men who will stop the water... vignettes from Goa's mining heartland

We skirt Paikdev's temple for Paikdev Zor, where this tribal snake deity bathes. The story goes that the village of Maina in Quepem Taluka once received all the water from the 'zor' or 'spring', and people from adjoining Kawrem, none. Then after a terrible tragedy, an angry father from Maina, grieving for his inconsolable daughter whom he had given intomarriage at Kawrem, forced Paikdev to send water, through the hill, to that village too.

I glance back. Seeing how the mining company 'renovate' Paikdev's temple, I feel a chill of sadness, only heightened by the fine spray of a dying drizzle.

Some years back, Paikdev's temporal abode was a labour oflove crafted in laterite, mud-plaster and whitewash, nestling in a small clearing, surrounded by hundreds of trees. Now, as if in a mockery of archaeological surveys, contempt for"tribal" beliefs, it seems manufactured in a factory. Paikdev in concrete; garishly painted into dissonance; in return for this paucity, the absence of his hills, trees and water.

After an hour and a half, unlike my motley colleagues, I attempted to sit. Aki, all of eight, eagerly bunking school,skips ahead like a sprite; Zaeen, fifteen, playing truant toidentify birds, looks like he would rather not go back toschool; and to Pauto, in his mid sixties, and Shantaram, inhis thirties, this is home. It's July, the traditional paths covered with thick grass and shrubs well over Aki's head;creepers and vines form a thick web, through which we stumble and pick our way.

I mutter a loud prayer to Paikdev and ask him to ensure I do not put my foot on a snake's head.

"Not all snakes are poisonous," Zaeen says

"Yeah, sure. I just don't want to find out which is which."

Shantaram points to an old mine, abandoned in Portuguese times. It takes thirty years for the earth to recover frommining, so, apart from a sudden incline and overhang in thedistance, and a deep bowl, the forest has returned invengeance, the mud road all but disappeared, although one canspot recent wheel tracks. The earth regenerating itself could have made a nice story if we didn't know the ending.

"This is where they intend mining," I say.

"What will happen then?" Aki asks me.

"This hill will disappear," I tell her. Her frown says shecan't comprehend the scale of destruction, or may be she's trying to figure out how anyone could be stupid enough to make a hill just disappear.

We climb clumps of grass wedged between ancient laterite burnt a deep brown. At the summit we look out at a morning clear enough to plot the rain. In the distance, cloud-misted hills stretch towards Sulcorna to join the taller ghats, hometo the Kushawati; directly below, sprawling to our right, thefour hills we have trudged over.

To our left, across the Maina-Kawrem road, barely 500 metresfrom the Government High School at Maina, is the rogue miningoperation that dug out two hills in barely six months, leaving behind a bottomless cavern. "This is what will happenhere?" Aki asks. "They're stupid people."

No, I want to say, just very greedy and very, very dangerous,the kind who will murder for ore. Zaeen's just read the Goa Foundation's Goa, Sweet Land of Mine. "How do they get'environment clearances'? he asks.

"There's a laboratory in Hyderabad that fabricates reportssaying there's nothing on these hills except ore."

"That's it"

"It's worse."

I tell him what Joao, a lawyer from Quepem, says: that the mining operations have already begun without 'environmentclearances'. Zaeen snorts in disgust. He's figured out thatback in school, they'll tell him he must respect the law!

We pass full grown cashew trees, bhendi, teak, and mango, planted some twenty years back by the Forest Department, who will watch silently as they arehacked down. I see pots to distil feni, and as weskirt the last hill, plantations of areca, tinyterraced fields of rice, and lean-tos of thatch left over from the summer months when shepherds watch over cattle grazing.

The shrine leaves Zaeen, usually on constant alert, inrepose. Pauto says Paikdev takes the form of a snake. To me,his face is a giant rock darkened with age, buried in the hill, and festooned with bright-green ferns and lichens, tiny sprigs of wild flower, grasses, creepers and vines; his eyes glow rich with the blackness of ore. Around his forehead are entwined the thick roots of an ancient kusum, its trunk apillar to the sky, its canopy of leaves welcoming the clouds.

From Paikdev's mouth, along the furrow of his pursed tongue,water courses out.

Before his great-great grandfather's time Pautotells us, the water only flowed to Maina, where lived a man who gave his daughter in marriage toKawrem. Blessed with beautiful child, one day she came to fill her pots at the spring only returning to find her infant lifeless, his tiny body covered with tiny black ants. The father grieved a fullyear, then, carrying a big stick, walked to the zor with nine men, berating Paikdev for not giving water to Kawrem and hitting the rock. From that daythree-quarters of the water flowed to Kawrem.

Returning, we descend 45 degrees from Paikdev Zor. Zaeen trekked the Himalayas this summer, so he looks at mewitheringly, Aki readily following suit. Naturally stepped bywater, the path down twines between plants growing high oneither side, as if planted by a divine farmer and we get thehang of going down, grabbing a handful of the plants as ifthey were ropes.

"You're way too slow," Zaeen tells me, pushing past with Aki.

We are touched by the succour of Paikdev Zor, the legend resonating as we cross a mountain stream four times, awed by the magnificence of flowing water. With innumerable brooks,this stream joins the Curca, a tributary of the Kushawati. Itis difficult not to believe, as Pauto does, that these watersare not part of a divine force.

We come back full circle, to the canal built at acost of Rs. 4 crore (Rs 40 million) to carry waterfrom Paikdev Zor downstream. Villagers here know contractors and politicians made money from the canal, but, they add cynically, at least they gaveus Paikdev's water. On the other side, Kawrem isstill blessed with its abundance, both villages touched by the munificence of a tribal deity towards a grieving father.

"That's dumb," Zaeen tells me as we trudge the last hundred yards to a hot shower and change of clothes. His teeth are chattering. "Her father hit a rock to give water, now theses wine will hit that rock to stop the water -- that's dumb."

Hartman de Souza
Circulated on Goanet on 15th September 2008


Sustainable development mean, any development which can support the life system for generations together. The Highest Court of India while interpreting sustainable development in a case T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad V/S Union of India and ors reported in ALL SCR 2008 held that “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the further generation to meet their own needs is sustainable development”.

In Goa mining is projected as the backbone of Goa’s economy, non other then those who are involved in these activity. But whether mining is the backbone of Goa or not or it will brake our backbone in the years to come, is the duty of every concerned citizen of Goa to judge.

That with regard to the propaganda made by the mining lobby claiming that mining is the backbone of Goa’s economy I want to ask certain questions to those who make such a propaganda . Any project or an activity which has a life span of 20 to 25 can be a backbone of a state? A project which destroys the sustainable sources such as agriculture, garden land, once for all can become a backbone? A project which spread air related dieses to the villagers can be a backbone? A project which destroys the life line like water, forest and air can it be termed as backbone? An activity which destroys the people economic zone can become a backbone of a state ? An activity which make the richer, richer and the poor poorer like the Tribals, can that activity be a backbone? Such activity cannot be a backbone of a state.

That from the study done by me on mining over the years I am of the firm conviction that mining activity in Goa which is today falsely projected as backbone of Goa’s economy by non other then the mining lobby will brake the backbone of Goa’s Economy in the years to come and the damage will be so severe will not be able to withstand.

Every Environment Impact Assessment report submitted by the mining company at the time of applying for environment clearance give the life span of a mine as 20 to 25 years that too when the company explore the ore at a certain limit per annum. Assuming for a while that the life span of a particular mine is 25 years, then what about after 25 years? Will the people living in the mining belt will be able to live a decent life on the mine is over? Who will supply the villager with water?

The rich , the landlord by selling their land and those who are employed in government job will flew from the area, but what about the unfortunate citizens, will they without water, without agriculture will be able to survive? It a known fact and made public by the Environment Impact Assessment report of the mining company, that mining destroys water, agriculture, forest and is a cause to different lung related dieses like silicoses, asthma etc as mentioned in the company Environment Impact Assessment report itself. Without water, agriculture, clean air will our future generation will able to survive! Certainly not.

Now presently the way the mining is going on in Goa it destroy the water resources. The Goa’s topographical system is such that there are mountain or ghats on the eastern side which are the of fresh water reservoirs/tanks of Goa , then the plateau/plains followed by the costal belt. The plateau/plains and the costal belt of Goa are being charged with fresh water which flows from the mountain situated on the eastern side. If for mining activity the western ghats/mountains are destroy then in the near future the water problem in Goa will certainly aggravate. Even now though most of the mountain are intact we are not unable to satisfy the water needs of some of the villagers.

The main source of water supply in south Goa is from the Salaulim Irrigation project which is situated in Sanguem taluka. Presently there are a number of illegal mining is going on in the catchment area of Salaulim irrigation project in collaboration with the officials with are supposed to keep a watch. Due to mining siltation the capacity of the dam to hold water has drastically reduce as mentioned by noted environmentalist Shri Rajendra kerkar in his article publish in local daily Sunaparant on 18/8/2008. Every year it goes on reducing. Recently the Ministry of environment and forest has given environment clearance to 8 mining leases in the catchment areas of Salaulim irrigation project. If these mines started their full fledge operation then Salaulim dam will be silted further and in the years to come it will have not capacity to hold water.

Secondly if the mountain in the catchment area are destroyed for mining activity then in the summer season there will be no reservoirs to supply water to the selaulim dam. If the dam is silted then it will be just a monument like other big dams situated in other states. If salaulim dam could not hold water will south Goa will get water. Even now the dam could not supply sufficient water to entire south Goa. Water source is the base for any development, an activity which destroys states water source cannot provide sustainable development.

That now a number of mine owner are operating illegal mines in Cavrem, Maina, Sulcorna, Colomba villages. Now some of the mine owner are seeking environment clearance to operate the age old mining lease which they have never operated.

The if mining takes place in these area then Kushawati River will silt , particularly the low lying area of Kushawati river and in the years to come it will a cause to flood. The rejection from the mine in the years to come will silt our sea which may result in increasing the water level of our sea. This will destroy our beaches and along with it Tourism industry which can provide our state sustainable development.

The villages which are presently self sufficient like Cavrem, Maina, Pirla, Sulcorna of Quepem Taluka and Colomba Rivona of Sanguem taluka, the mining activity will not only destroy these villages but also in the years to come will vipe out these villages from the map of Goa if all the mining leases granted by the then Portuguese government comes into operation in these villages . There will be hardly any place for forest, water reservoirs , agricultural and even fro the villages to live in if all the leases became operational.

That due to the destruction of peoples economic zones, the people of these villages will be without any source of income particularly the Tribals who will be forced to bag on the street. And even to bag on the street there will be difficulty for them due to damage done to their health by the dust pollution generated by the mining activity. I may not be wrong if I say that their condition will be worse then the mining affected people of Jarkhand and Bihar. If any activity which endangers the life itself cannot provide sustainable development.

In my view an activity which cannot provide sustainable development which endangers the state in the future should not be promoted.

John Fernandes in Herald, Panjim 15th September 2008.