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

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