Friday, October 30, 2009

Mining trucks trails accident series in Quepem

The serious of accident involving mining truck reported in Quepem town on Thursday lead to traffic jam for over one and half hours which resulted in causing hardships to the public including school children.

The first accident involving mining truck that took place just opposite to Mamlatdar and Collector office. That while negotiating with the turn in front of collector building the mining truck bang into the wall of the adjacent garden.

The second accident that took place involving two mining truck took place near bridge. This resulted in traffic jam over one and half hours. There was a heavy rush of transportation of mining truck via Quepem town that after the line of mining truck reached up to Mother Tereza house Igramol which is around two kms distance.

The third accident involving mining truck was reported late in the evening near petrol pump in which a cyclist was knocked down by the truck. In the accident the cyclist suffered minor injuries.

One Sanjeev Borkar who is having a shop at Quepem informed that accident involving mining truck is a regular feature in Quepem town. “If constant accident and traffic jam took place than in the days to come the business in town will be badly affected.”

Another Shop Owner Evangelisto D’Costa informed that though the mining trucks pass by the side of the Assitant Director, Dy-Collector and mamlatdar office they does nothing to safeguard the safety of the public. Accusing the office of the Dy-Collector office D’Costa stated that the Dy-Collector office just pass order but does not bother whether they are implemented or not. “Are these order passed to keep them in show case or to pacify the agitators when they come on the road?” questioned D’Costa.
John Fernandes

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quepem town bridge cracks due to mining trucks overload

Taking cognizance of Report in newspaper - Herald 24/10/2009 - a concerned Citizen of Quepem Adv. Fredrick Pereira in the interest of public has filed a complaint before Sub-Divisional Magistrate Quepem requesting therein to stop the mining transportation plying over the bridge.

In his complaint filed before the SDM Quepem Copy of which has been forwarded to the District Magistrate, South-Goa , the Executive Chief Engineer P.W.D, P.W.D Minister, Quepem MLA, Adv. Pereira has stated that the Quepem bridge which was constructed about 50 years back has become weak and cracks have been developed to it and as such is not feasible for heavy transportation.

He has further stated that upon bringing this to the attention of the local PWD, the officials were quick to brush aside this grave issue, without applying their mind by cursorily and vaguely declaring that the cracks were a result of unevenness in the road surface.

That on the very same day, 24-10-09, the PWD officials were extra quick to cover up these cracks and other adjacent area with tar and other road building material so as to cover up the cracks, ( like how a wrinkled old woman does, by putting on make-up to appear young and youthful ) and give a false and deceptive impression, that nothing ever happened to the bridge and that it has stood the test of time and also to keep away curious, concerned and apprehensive minds from initiating any action to safeguard the bridge. “Out of sight is out of mind” is the motto behind the cover up by the PWD, who, it appears are doing so under directions of vested interests states the complaint further.

The complaint further states that the local PWD officials ought to have consulted and taken expert opinion in this matter from relevant experts as well as conducted basic tests, as it involves the safety of the bridge and eventually the life of the general public, in the event the bridge should collapse, which appears imminent unless proper and immediate salvage measures are taken

That the deterioration is further aggravated by the continuous and bumper to bumper plying of heavy overloaded trucks laden with iron ore which amounts to multiple Tons of unsafe and dangerous load on the bridge and it appears that the very cause of these cracks is this suggestion.

Adv. Pereira in his complaint prayed to execute the statutory laws and provisions envisaged under the Constitution of India and the Cr.P.C. to safeguard the welfare and safety of the general public..

He has also prayed to ban the movement of heavy traffic from plying over the Quepem bridge in the interest of public safety, until the bridge is declared safe for such use by the concerned and competent authority.

John Fernandes

Mining trucks nuisance in Quepem

Tension rose high in Quepem town on October 27 2009 morning as over a minor accident that occurred in Quepem town the villagers of Quepem on Tuesday blocked the entire mining transportation plying via Quepem town for over an hour.

The villagers of Quepem are annoyed with the reckless operation of mining truck via Quepem as the mining truck are not following the terms and condition which the truck owners and transport contractor has given in writing to the villagers Quepemkar. The series of accident that took place in Quepem Bazar since Friday further annoyed the villagers and were waiting for an opportunity to stop the transport. The minor accident that took place on Tuesday morning followed by a challenge given by a mining sub contractor to one of the villager stating that ‘to stop the mining truck and show” generated the spark.

As soon as the accident took place around fifty villagers from Quepem town gathered and blocked the mining truck. The blocked which started at around 9.00 am continued till 9.45am . The transportation via Quepem town is so heavy that the line of loaded truck reached upto Igramol.

The Quepem P.I. Santosh Narvekar with police team rush to the site and try to pacify the agitating villagers. He told the agitators that they cannot stop transportation and told them that if they don’t want mining transport via Quepem town they can to a get court order. When his attention was drawn to a administrative order and questioned as to why the administrative order passed by the Dy-Collector with regard to mining truck are not implemented he could not reply.

The villagers then accused the police of being agent of the mining company as when the villager come on the road against the mining immediately police appears at the site however does nothing to prevent the nuisance such as overloading, over speeding, traffic ham that is being caused by the mining trucks. They also accused the police of not implementing the administrative orders passed by the Dy-Collector dated 26/11/2008 and 11/5/2009.

Then at around 9.35AM Dy-S.P. Rohidas Patre appeared at the spot and appealed to the agitators to allow the mining truck to go. After a long discussion with the Dy-S.P. that to when the Dy-SP assured that his office will see that the mining truck are obeying all the rules and regulations. At the time of discussion the Dy-SP and his police officer present prevented a reported from taking the photos of the discussion. The agitators then allow the mining transport to ply.
That in spite of the assurance given by the Dy-SP the overloading and over-speeding of the mining truck via Quepem town continued unabated that to in presence of police officers deputed at Quepem town.

Later on the Dy-SP. Called the agitators namely Amol kanekar, Sanjeev Borkar, Evanjelisto D’Costa, Nandan Hegde, Sandeep Dessai, the mining contractor Ashok Naik and other in his office for a discussion.

When contacted Dy-SP. Rohidas Patre denied the charges leveled against the police and stated that the villagers did not blocked the mining truck but stated that the blocked was caused due to the occurrence of miner accident.
John Fernandes

Contaminated Water Supply in Goa

Goa has long been facing a problem of contaminated water, but the response of the authorities is tardy, says FREDDY DIAS in Herald October 29, 2009

Water is essential for life. We need to drink at least 2.5 litres of water daily, which means that every individual consumes nearly 68,475 litres of water in a lifetime. As the population continues to explode and with the rapid pace of industrialisation and development, our requirement for clean and safe drinking water continues to grow.

In Goa, besides the constant interruptions, we have been intermittently facing the problem of contamination of drinking water supply since the last several years. Repeated complaints made to the Water Supply Department (WSD) are either sloppily attended to, or ignored altogether.

The problem of interruption and contamination of drinking water has been plaguing the residents of the state, particularly during the spring and summer months of the year. Not only the cities and towns, but a large number of rural areas too, particularly those along the coastal belt, have been facing the problem of drinking water mixed with dirt, sewage and, in some cases, even worms and tiny insects. Besides, according to recent reports, available drinking water has many more impurities like fluoride, nickel, sulphates, etc. Whatever precautionary measures are claimed to have taken by the authorities concerned, it remains toxic, the effects of which are evident in the form of gastro-intestinal and kidney disorders. The problem is more acute in Goa, where people consume more water because of the tropical weather.

In many rural areas, thousands of people are suffering from skin diseases caused by poor quality of water. Growing industrialisation, mining and widespread use of pesticides are believed to be the reasons behind the deterioration in the quality of water and falling water tables. In fact, in many villages all over the state, drinking contaminated water has become a part of life. Drinking water projects are undertaken at high cost and inaugurated with much fanfare in the state, but if the regular outbreaks of water-borne diseases in the urban areas are any indication, what happens elsewhere can easily be imagined. The drinking water supplied by the government is often found not fit for human consumption, as proved by many cases of typhoid, cholera, dysentery and gastro-enteritis in the state during the last several years.

Doctors at various government as well as private hospitals and clinics say that they have been regularly treating patients for diarrhoea and vomiting. According to doctors, Goa experiences at least two or three bouts of typhoid, cholera and gastro-enteritis every year. There are increasing incidents of jaundice too since the last many years. The most likely cause is infection with the Hepatitis-E virus that is spread from one infected person to another because of contamination of drinking water mixed with sewage water. The disease has of late been spreading in slum areas due to unhygienic conditions there. The answer to this totally preventable outbreak is for the water supply and sanitation agencies to be vigilant. They have to ensure that there is no contamination, repair the leaking pipes, detect early indication of contamination and ensure adequate chlorination of final drinking water.

Tests conducted by some non-government organisations (NGOs) revealed that there was insufficient residual chlorine content to ensure that most disease-causing bacteria in the water will be destroyed. Due to poor maintenance, ignorance on the part of the staff and non-availability of spare parts, the department’s chlorinators are often declared to be out of order. This should be rectified by having adequate spare parts and keeping trained staff.

Besides, in spite of guidelines laid down by the Water Quality Assessment Authority (WQAA) and the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, the procedures adopted by the Water Supply Department to analyse water do not include specific parameters like odour, taste and colour, even as the Act makes such parameters mandatory. In fact, it is pointed out that reports prepared by the WSD fail to outline important parameters like chemical oxygen demand (COD), biological oxygen demand (BOD), and total hardness and manganese content as stipulated in the manual of procedures for water treatment under the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department.

A senior official of the state Water Supply Department (WSD), while admitting that during weekly collection of water samples from various supply junctions they did find occasional evidence of contamination mostly due to mud content, maintained that necessary precautions are taken to maintain the minimum level of residual chlorine, and that the WSD was chlorinating the state’s drinking water at various supply points. If there was no human meddling like shutdowns, puncturing of pipes, etc, the chlorine content in the water would be enough.

According to the WSD official, the reason for the murkiness of water, particularly during the monsoons, is due to large-scale of washing of mining rejects into the dams/reservoirs, which increases the turbidity level. The high mud content in drinking water cannot be reduced beyond a certain limit, but extra chlorine was being added, and bacteriological tests conducted by the department have certified that the water is safe for human consumption.The Chairman of the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) Simon de Souza said that the board has increased the frequency of water testing to check for traces of heavy minerals, including manganese and sulphates, in the silt washed into the dams/reservoirs, which is caused due to mines operating in the catchment areas of the reservoirs. According to de Souza, massive quantities of mining silt is being washed into the reservoir’s catchment areas, on account of which inspections and examinations of water by the GSPCB will be held every month for the next year, in order to keep a close check on pollution level in drinking water supply in the State.

Notwithstanding the assurance given by the authorities to improve the filtration and treatment process at the Xelpem water treatment plant in view of increased water turbidity for consumers of South Goa district, the problem still persists on and off. Recently, the Navelim Civic & Consumer Forum, in a letter to the WSD authorities, termed the supply of muddy water as ‘irresponsibility on the part of the government and demanded that the authorities should immediately ascertain that the quality of water is fit for human consumption before distributing it to the consumers. Similarly, activists of Civic & Consumer Forums of Colva, Davorlim and Ganv Ghor Rakhan Manch of Orlim have stressed the importance of developing suitable technologies to ensure safe and potable drinking water supply to citizens.

It is pertinent to note here that a notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest stresses on water quality assessment and monitoring protocol in order to maintain uniformity in water quality monitoring procedures by all agencies, departments, pollution control boards, etc. “The uniform process of water quality monitoring shall provide for parameters for analyses, analytical techniques, quality assurance and quality control system, besides infrastructure required for laboratories, procedures for data processing, reporting and dissemination,” states the notification. Consumers and consumer organisations can, therefore, complain against the department regarding contaminated water supply to the Consumer Redressal Forum and also to the Special Grievances Cell in the Pollution Control Board. Consumer societies can also arrange for frequently testing of drinking water samples to protect consumer interest.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Struggles against Vedanta in India

Presentation by Sayantoni Datta for Convention on Niyamgiri held on 10th October 2009 in New Delhi

A joint meeting with various groups engaged in resistances against mining held in Salem, Tamil Nadu in August 2009 only reiterated that the demand for ‘no mining in Niyamgiri ’ is a judicious one. The notorious company’s modus operandi and unethical practices have been repeatedly exposed across India. People who have been witness to and victims of these large-scale violations called for a strengthening of the campaign against Vedanta’s operations in India in August at the meeting.

I have been requested to share with you a short introduction to the resistances and struggles in the rest of India. It is revealing that while the Court has sanctioned mining in Niyamgiri, the same Court has been taking decisions on stay orders and several violations and malpractices of the company in other states. Vedanta seems to have a certain expertise and confidence in carrying out illegal activities and encroachments, and a history of malfunctioning plants, leakages and accidents. It is ironic that today Vedanta is being blindly touted as the ‘beacon of development’ for Orissa by the Orissa government.

In the last year Vedanta had acquired Sesa Goa and Dempo operations in Goa, well known activist Claude Alvares states ‘The incidents of mining violations on Sesa Goa mining leases are a result of the take-over of the company by Vedanta, a company with one of the poorest environment records in the whole world. Vedanta is pushing iron ore extraction in its Sesa Goa mines beyond the capacity of the environment to absorb destructive damage. Allowing expansion of this company’s operations in Goa can only spell doom for Goa’s natural environment.’[1] I highlight here three crucial litigations, which have been continuing in Goa. The story of Sonshi School, the Sirigaon Litigation and the Advapal Litigation.

At, Advapal village the company had started dumping illegal waste near the Advapal nullah. The huge illegal mining dumps near Advapal nullah, flowed into the nullah, destroying the concrete embankments and flowed into peoples homes and paddy fields. 9-year-old Akash Naik and his mother filed a PIL in Bombay High Court on September 19, 2009. After the PIL was filed, it was found that the company had not adhered to its mining plan and was engaged in illegal dumping of mine waste. The Bombay High Court ordered a stay order on Phase 1 and Phase 2 mining in Advapal. Flow of mining wastes and siltation into paddy fields and homes is devastating the village and creating inhabitable conditions. Akash shares that even though he is nine, he must take on this responsibility, for he was fed up of seeing the people in his village battling with policemen and local politicians, if they do not act, there would be nothing left in future.

Just as mining is creating darkness in our natural environments in the future, so too is its role in creating darkness in children’s lives. Sonshi school in Sattari, Goa is now surrounded by 5 mining sites, and children are studying in the midst of mining dust and elevated noise from the mines. There is no playground and running water in the school, mining overburden has been dumped upto 10 ms near the steps of the school. Only one teacher remains in the school who is extremely fearful of taking any action. Filing of RTIs has had no response and activists like Durgadas Gaonkar have been threatened on the same. It is a clear case of encroachment of Government Land by Sesa Goa, but most are fearful of severe repression by mining companies and mafia there. Children are left with very little alternative as the nearest. school after Sonshi is 10 kms away. Because of the inhuman conditions, attendance has dropped drastically in the school.

At Sirgaon village members petitioned the Court when they found that their wells had begun to dry up, alleging depletion of water resources, degradation of agricultural fields vis-αΊ£-vis the mining activity in Sirigaon village (Bicholim Taluka) in North Goa District. The Goa bench of Bombay High Court ordered for a detailed investigation, which was conducted by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute based in Nagpur. The findings in the NEER report stated that there are three mining companies involved which include Dempo, Vedanta’s subsidiary, Chowgule and Rajaram Bandekar Mines. The landscape here is completely changed. While the topographic highs have disappeared, large depressions or mining pits have been dug which have gone below –20m(amsl) to 43 m (amsl). The report states that ‘the deepening of the mines resulted in the loss of recharge area for the wells and the soil analysis results indicate that the silt deposition from the mining overburdens has degraded the soil fertility in the agricultural fields of Sirigaon village. Proper slope stabilization needs to be carried out in the mining areas to minimize runoff of the overburden dump material to the nearby agricultural fields. 660.25 lakhs rupees has been estimated by the report for mitigative measures such as recharging the aquifer, making arrangements for rainwater harvesting, stabilizing slopes in the area’[2]. The next hearing is due to come up today for Sirigaon and the Court has given a temporary stay order on mining for the time being. People of Sirigaon are saying no to any further mining in the area.

It is interesting to see the confidence with which Vedanta has acquired these very mines which have reached their tether in terms of extraction and are now impacting their neighbouring or peripheral areas, illegally dumping wastes, encroaching on lands and drawing water from neighbouring sources. The first impact of mining is on water, Goa’s water, land, housing, forests, and agriculture have been severely impacted by mining.

In fact the struggle groups in Tuticorin in south of India where Vedanta had imported ‘a secondhand, decommissioned copper smelter plant from Australia’[3], complain about how water has been drawn out from the area and now the company provides water to the residents for only four hours a day. Tuticorin struggles started when fish workers found that the company was discharging its chemical effluents into the river and the sea. The company had violated all the three conditions of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, that a plant must be situated 25 kms away from Gulf of Manar; 1 km away from residence and 500 metres away from water sources[4]; all the conditions have been violated. Plus Gulf of Manar comprises the National Marine Park and special species. Exasperated by Vedanta’s flouting of all rules and recommendations; of dumping piles of phospho gypsum, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes ordered a shutting down of the smelter in July 2005 as it fully violated the Hazardous Waste Act 1989 rules.

MALCO manufacturing Aluminium bought over by Vedanta in 1996 went on a major expansion drive. Bauxite mined from Yercaud (Shervarayon ranges) & Kolli hills (home to shola forests) was transported to Mettur plant . From 1996 the company in Kolli hills had been mining illegally till 2008 without a single mandatory permission. On a petition in the High Court, Chennai the company admitted to its illegalities, mining was shut down at MALCO. Presently a 135 mw thermal plant is in operation and there is a proposal to expand it to 1035 mw. Salem city groups & Mettur farmer associations are currently warning the company of doing so[5].

The company has operated the bauxite mines without permissions for more than 10 years, where the mining lease expired in 1998. The company's Consent to Operate issued by the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board under the Air and Water Acts expired in 2002. MALCO's mines also did not have permission from the Hill Area Conservation Authority, or environmental or forest clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The company has deposited a mountain of toxic "Red Mud" - a highly caustic by-product of smelting - on the banks of the Stanley Reservoir on River Kaveri.. The company assures to clear of all of this. Local activists state that this would take three years if 50000 tonnes is removed every month.[6]

‘Going by bauxite production figures declared by Vedanta in its 2008 annual report, the company is estimated to have removed more than 3 million tonnes of bauxite from the Kolli Hills despite having no permission to do so since 2002’[7].

There is no guarantee on the other hand that this would benefit anyone locally, in a study conducted by the India Resource Centre, ‘In the first quarter of 2003, Sterlite’s sales rose 14%. Its export turnover grew threefold (by 201%), while its domestic turnover fell by nearly a quarter. The company’s tax provision tumbled by 84%, to a large extent
because the increase in exports enabled the company to benefit from tax breaks on export profits.’[8]

In a meeting with Bankers held in London in September 22, 2009 many of the banks were shocked at some of the facts, in a discussion held under Chatham House Rules, a Dutch Bank which has now disinvested but had been engaging with the Company to reform itself, gave a final conclusion that Vedanta the company is not willing to acknowledge any of the problems it is causing, and is beyond reform.

Through these experiences we have found that whether a Dempo, a Balco, a Sesa Goa or a Vedanta, the colour of mining practices have been the same. It has brazenly flouted rules and regulations and standards on environment, labour, land acquisition, pollution parameters, and safety precautions for the local people, and to continue doing so it has used local police force, and government bodies in a nexus to support these acts, using overt acts of repression through threats, kidnapping, police harassment, defamation suits and subtle repressive measures such as surveillance on those voicing discontent.

1. Presentation on Goa Mining Issues: Summary with urgent appeals, Conference of bankers financing Vedanta , London,September 22, 2009
3.Vedanta Salem Meeting Report prepared by Isha Agarwal
4.Vedanta Dossier and Letter to the Jury of Golden Peacock Awards
5.Ravages Through India, India Resource Centre

7.Sirigao: NEERI Report to High Court - Executive Summery
8.Sebastian Rodrigues
9.Sebastian Rodrigues, GOAMAP
10.Piyush Sethia, Speak Out Salem


[2] Sirigao: NEERI Report to High Court - Executive Summery By Sebastian Rodrigues

[3] Ravages Through India,
[4] As shared by activists from Tuticorin at Salem Meeting, July 2009, Vedanta Salem Meeting Report
[5] Piyush Sethia, Speak Out Salem
[7] ibid
[8] Ravages through India

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Curpem, Sanguem threatened by Dempo mine of Vedanta

These are the pictures on 20 October 2009 of liked polluted water from Dempo mine in Curpem, Sanguem. Dempos mines are owned by British corporate Vedanta. Leakages is threatening People's residential houses at Chimutwada, Curpem in Sanguem taluka.

This mine poses grave danger to the locals as this leakage on the top of mountain can lead to collapse of the mining dump. In case the collapse takes place then entire locality of people of Chimutwada likely to face a disaster.

Irked Ladfe-Bicholim locals block mining trucks

Irked with pollution caused in the village due to mining transportation, residents of Ladfe-Bicholim on Tuesday blocked mining trucks from Kalne-Dodamarg, Maharastra.

It may be recalled that the residents had last week submitted a memorandum to Bicholim Deputy Collector D H Kenaudekar demanding a halt on mining transportation through their village.

However, the transport continued plying through Ladfe and on Tuesday at about 10 am, about 150 agitated villagers came on the road and blocked around 50 ore-loaded trucks at Ladfe.

Bicholim MLA Rajesh Patnekar rushed to the site and supported the agitation. Bicholim Mamlatdar Pramod Bhat, Bicholim Police PI Madkaikar, Bicholim Congress Committee President Naresh Sawal also rushed to the site.

Residents fear the heavy mining traffic would pose a threat to the people at the temple, milk society, primary school and Shishuvatika school, all located along the roadside.

“Besides, the village and fields are also near the road,” complained the residents.

The villagers have demanded a complete stoppage of mining transportation through the village, which is being regulated from Maharashtra.

Later, Mamlatdar Pramod Bhat had a discussion with agitatators, who demanded that the transport contractor should be called at the site, but he was not available.

In order to solve the problem, Mamlatdar Bhat has convened a meeting in his cabin at Bicholim on Wednesday.

However, the villagers including MLA Patnekar and Sawal strongly suggested to stop the mining transport and no compromise should be made.

BICHOLIM CORRESPONENT ADDS: Tension gripped Bordem-Bicholim late Tuesday evening, as several mining trucks plying from Maharashtra to Bicholim were blocked by an irate mob at Bordem.

The incident occurred at about 8.30 pm, when a mining truck in a bid to overtake was about to hit a motorcycle rider at Bordem. The situation became tense, as the truck driver in turn tried to argue with motorcycle rider. Soon a mob gathered at the site and punctured the tyres of the truck.

Anticipating trouble, the truck driver fled from the site. The mob gathered at site stopped all the trucks plying from the road. The entire traffic along the road, including buses and private vehicles, were stopped.

Speaking to reporters, Anand Narvekar of Shiv Sagar group from Bicholim expressed displeasure over the mining trucks plying along the narrow roads in Bicholim.

“We will submit a memorandum to Bicholim Mamlatdar on Wednesday to take steps against the mining transport in Bicholim,” said Narvekar.

Herald, Wednesday, 21 October, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat must make time to solve mining created problems

Goa Federation of Mines Affected People (GOAMAP) takes strong objection to the statement of Goa Chief Minister Digmabar Kamat that he has no time to solve the problems created by mining industry in Sirigaon, Bicholim.

Mr. Kamat has been quoted in Forbes Asia magazine of October 5 2009, published from New York with regards to water and agriculture problems created due to rampant irresponsible mining in Sirigaon. On page 23 in an article titled "...Meantime, in Goa" Digambar Kamat was asked when the State might act on the court-ordered report, Goa Chief Minister barked "I don't have time for this" and slammed down the phone on writer Megha Bahree.

It man be noted that National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) had submitted the report to the Goa bench of Bombay High Court some months ago pointing out how open cast mining has led to the depletion of ground water and silting of agriculture in Sirigaon village.

Considering all this evidence it is shocking that Goa Chief Minister has no time to pay attention to this very serious problem confronting Sirigaon as well as Goa.

GOAMAP urges Goa Chief Minister to make time and on priority basis to solve mining generated problems related to water, agriculture, forest, air pollution etc in Sirigaon and rest of Goa too.

Even a child knows mining is bad!

By Pradnya Gaonkar in Goan Observer, Panaji, October 17 – 23, 2009

Nine-year-old Akash Naik from Advalpal has taken on the mining lobby, which has already destroyed large tracts of land in Goa and threatens to obliterate the remaining green patch in the state. Akash Naik has filed a petition against Sesa Goa, charging them of unlawful mining activity in Advalpal. He has also alleged that the company has managed to extend its expired mining lease. In an interim order, the Goa bench of Bombay High Court restrained Sesa Goa from any mining operations at the firm’s Advalpal mining lease.

Nefarious mining activity is a long standing grievance of the community in Advalpal as it has adversely affected many lives in the region. Akash’s petition has jolted the leading mining company owned by the UK-based Vedanta Group. The company, led by Anil Agarwal, recently made headlines when it bought mining leases worth Rs.17.50 billion from Dempo Group. Akash has been backed by the Goa Foundation, which is pursuing several litigations against mining firms.


Akash, in his petition, has expressed concern over the destruction caused to agricultural lands, the source of livelihood for around 2000 people residing in the area. The water bodies, which are essential for farm holdings, are chocked due to mining rejects dumped near human settlements. The rejects are being dumped in mining pits. The rainwater drains off these sediments in nearby water bodies and fields, destroying cultivable land. Although the same situation is prevalent in other regions of the state where mining takes place, the side effects are especially acute in Advalpal and Sarvona. In June 2009, when the first rain showers hit the state, villagers residing in Advalpal and Poire in Bicholim faced the consequences of irresponsible mining activity. In areas like Gaonkar wada and Voilo wada in Advalpal, water from the reservoirs dug to collect rain water gushed down the red mined terrain, overflowed and rushed into the houses of those residing at the foot of slope. The mining silt in the water contaminated houses, garden and fields, leaving them uncultivable.

Ramakant Gaonkar’s fields and those of a several others were left thickly layered with red mine silt. At Voilo Wada, the heavy flow of mucky water damaged the rear wall of Atmaram Naik’s house. To avoid the mine sludge running down the slope in fields, huge reservoir are dug to accumulate rain water. Large pipes are placed along the slope to drain out water from the mines into canals. The water from these canals is diverted to these reservoirs. According to the villagers, the reservoir built initially could not sustain the amount of water and eventually another reservoir was dug up to divert overflowing water. But the continues heavy showers of rain filled all the reservoirs. The mud in the area became damp as a result the outer walls of the canals and the reservoirs collapsed. This led the water from the canals down the slope into the houses of those residing in the area. The farmers who used to cultivate their fields once in a year are now left with no fields to sow the crops. The thick sludge in the fields are crude iron powder dumped at the mines. This slurry hampers crop growth leaving the farmers helpless. The draining of reject in the fields has become an annual phenomenon for those residing in these areas.


Ramesh Gauns, an environmentalist and member of the Goa Federation of Mines Affected People (GOAMAP), has highlighted another case involving Zantye and Company Pvt Ltd. In a petition filed before the Delhi High Court, Ramesh Gauns had challenged the order of National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA) dismissing his appeal against the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for granting Environmental Clearance to a project where a public hearing was conducted even before the approved Environment Impact Assessment report was prepared. The Delhi High Court took cognizance of the casual manner in which appeals were dismissed by the NEAA without much application of mind.

Zantye and Company Private Limited’s mining lease covers an area of 72 ha in Sarvona. Ramesh Gauns has alleged that Shantaram Zantye, owner of the company, submitted a false affidavit before the Goa State Pollution Control Board to get NOC by quoting a Total Estimated Investment of Rs.278 lakhs. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by I.N.Kolar, general manager of Trimurti Exports, a registered firm which agreed to pay Rs.11.10 crore for an area of 5,80,333 sq ms out of 7,20,000 sq ms. Gauns has alleged that Shantaram Zantye (the lessee) is in breach of the provision of Deed of Lease where the state government is a lessor (part 7 of the covenants of the lessee/lessees, transfer of lease 17,18). Gauns has also claimed that Shantaram Zantye made a false representation through I.N.Kolar during the joint Site Inspection requested by the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) in December 2007. I.N.Kolar also represented Zantye and Co pvt Ltd in matters of NEAA though he is respondent in the matter in the court of the Deputy Coilector Bicholim (Case No SDM/BICH/133/CRPC/2006/04) where he is listed as general manager of Trimurti Exports.

Also, this is the only mining lease in Goa which exists on the banks of the flood prone river in Bicholim. Therefore, the lease is subject to termination under section 4 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. It has also been observed that the mine was not operated continuously for more than 20m years. Therefore, the lease should have been terminated by the state government as per Rule 28, lapsing of leases under the Minerals Concession Rules 1960. More importantly, the Tillari irrigation canal passes through the leased area, covering approximately 38,000 sq ms of land.


Land acquisition was challenged in the High Court by the project promoter. The petition hearing went in favour of Tillari irrigation. The state government has spent Rs. Eight Crore on disilting of River Bicholim as a precautionary measure in May 2009. These vital issues relating to the case were not considered by the NEAA in its order. This led the Delhi High Court to direct the NEAA to rehear the Sarvona Mining case. The government authorities are also allegedly trying to conceal the ill effects of mining by ‘tempering’ with the annual official production figures. The Department of Mines reported that the production of iron ore in 2001-2003 from this mine was 15 tonnes while the Indian Bureau of Mines, Fatorda has stated that there was no production till 2007. The report of the Environment Impact Assessment prepared by the project promoter was approved by the Controller of Mines (South Zone) Bangalore with ore to waste ratio as 1:3.41 whereas the Indian Bureau of Mines report on ore to waste is 1:8.56.

The M/s Zantye Company has submitted Annexure to form 1(a) for NOC from the Goa State Pollution Control Board which lists varying figures on waste. As per the Environmental Clearance and Annexure to form 1(a), the area needed to dump rejects is 716.503 ha but, as per the Environmental Clearance and Indian Bureau of Mines, the area actually required is 596.2974 ha. “Every violation and erroneous data has been brought to the notice of the concerned department and also to the Chief Secretary and Chief Minister, but they have not responded to these allegations since 2007. According to the modification order from the Controller of Mines South Zone, the project promoter has to appoint a manager and statutory officials as per the Mines Act 1952, but this has not been complied with,” underlines Gauns.

The mining menace in areas like Bicholim has drawn the interest of people across the world, especially when a mining giant like Vedanta is involved. A group led by Adv Krishnendu Mukherjee, a barrister who spent 13 years in the United Kingdom, is now fighting against Vedanta group’s activities in Bicholim. While researching the ill effects of mining carried out by the firm, Mukherjee discovered that mining had effected the education of children residing in the area. A small village called Sonshi in Sattari taluka was selected as the study area. There is only one government primary school in vicinity with 12 students and one teacher. In the year 2003, Sesa Goa started a beneficiation plant close to the school premises. There are a total of five major mines operating in the area, but the Sesa Goa plant is the closest and the largest. The mine is located a mere ten meters away from the school, causing serious health hazards to the students.


During the study, they found no running water available in the school which was also affected by the high noise and dust levels. Mining slurry containing arsenic was causing contamination of near by canal water flowing behind the school. It was indeed breach of statutory duty and of the right to education Department which did not show any concern to the issues of the students studying in this school. Since it is a government primary school, mining was carried out by encroachment on government lands. It is indeed surprising that there has been no test carried out by the government authorities to study the impact on environment. When Mukherjee and his group tried to speak to the teacher was hesitant to speak as she was apprehensive of being pressurized by the department heads. A day later, a guard was posted near the school to interrogate visitors.

When the group tried to retrieve information under the Right to Information Act regarding education standards at schools, the Department of Education responded that there was only one school in the entire village. “It is obvious that the Education Department is not concerned about the depleting standards of the school and is giving a free hand to violators,” avers Krishnendu Mukherjee. “No studies have been carried out by the so called environment and social welfare monitoring authorities in these areas to point out the impact of mining in Goa. The actual picture is worse than one can imagine. Mining cannot be termed as an industry in Goa, but the government still considers it the backbone of the state’s economy. If mining was an industry then, according to the Atlas map prepared by the Indian Bureau of Mines, it should be ten kilometers away from any water body. But most of the mines in Goa are along the banks of rivers,” points out Ramesh Gauns.

The overall mining scenario in Goa needs to be reviewed as the figures mentioned by Gauns are a cause of great concern. In North Goa, the Mandovi catchments area, which covers 980 sq ms, has ten mines in its vicinity. Every year, 270 tonnes of mining rejects are dumped in the Mandovi catchments area and 33.33 tonnes in the Zuari catchments area. Around 1800 barges ply in the Mandovi system and 1500 in the Zuari. An analysis of these figures reveals the alarming fact that reject sediments dumped in the rivers increases turbidity in the rivers increases, decreases light penetration and, in turn, affects marine eco systems. According to figures in the Economic Survey, the fish catch in the state has dropped over the last two years, which can be correlated to mining. The ore to mine reject ratio in Goa is 1:3, which means that only one part of the ore extracted is used where as the remaining finds its way to fields and water bodies.

In spite of the agitations and cases piling up in various courts in the country, the government appears to be ignoring the unlawful and irresponsible business carried out by mining companies. While it is understood that the mining industry employs a large section of the population and contributes to the economy, it is imperative that those involved are ‘responsible’. If the disastrous effects of mining are obvious to a nine-year-old child, why isn’t it to the government?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shivsorem mining induced de-forestation pictures

On October 09 2009 mining companies went on rampage cutting down forest at Shivsorem, Rivona.

Here we share pictures in this regard.

For more details click here.

Sebastian Rodrigues

Shaving of Forest in Colamb

With active collusion between Forest department and mining companies forest cover in Colamb is being shaved to clear way for the mining industry to penetrate deep into the ground to extract iron ore and manganese. These pictures are from A.X.P. Palondicar mining lease 17/49. It is designated land as "Government Forest" by Sawant and Karapurkar committee report covering survey number 72 and declared as "No development zone under Goa Regional Plan 2021. Miners in Goa cares a hoot for the regional plans or for the laws for they have they have plenty of currency grease to service Indian Politicians and bureaucrats at all the levels. This deforestation began on August o4 2009 and subsequently continued. Mining operations has began too. Here are pictures clicked on October 18 2009.

Sebastian Rodrigues with picture inputs from Devidas Gaonkar

Chapora river whose banks Vedanta wants to mine at Pirna, Goa

Sesa Goa mining company owned by British corporate has developed insatiable desires to mine the Chapora river banks at Pirna, Bardez. for more information on this click here.
This picture from the top of Chopem-Siolim bridge in Bardez.
Sebastian Rodrigues

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Western Ghats explodes, Canacona floods and Aftermath

By Sebastian Rodrigues

October 15, 2009

While the Indian Nation was paying homage to the father of the nation M.K. Gandhi on his birthday on October 02, 2009 Goa’s Canacona taluka was under special surprise – Floods. Gandhi today has very special relevance in this context particularly so for the kind of development model he proposed for the country. If India had to follow the development path that Gandhi advocated Canacona today would have not been under such horrible floods wiping away the villages and causing misery to life in human, animal and plant form.

One is completely justified to ask as to what Gandhi’s ideas has got to do with causes of floods. Gandhi advocated particular pattern of development wherein poorest of the poor would be the centre of development paradigm. This model was disregarded by the Indian ruling elites of the times led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Dams came to be regarded as ‘Temple of modern India”. It is this development model that is possibly responsible to causing horror filled floods to Canacona between October 01 to 03, 2009.

There are various propositions as to what caused floods even as relief work goes on at this time. There are few who advocated that it is siltation of three rivers in Canacona that caused floods. Siltation in turn was cause by changes in pattern of agriculture of the local Canacona tribal farmers who shifted to chemical fertilizers. This may be only part contributor to aggravate the situation but not the main cause.

There are still other who suggest that the floods was caused by Tsunami like wave in the Arabian Sea following earthquake in Indonesia on the same day. This is not possible as waves did not hit the coast in Goa or any other rivers witnessed floods - even minor ones.

There are still suggestions put forward that there could be saline water intrusion due to open cast iron ore and manganese mines operations in Quepem and Sanguem as the water has reached below sea level inside the mining pits. It is mostly likely may not be the cause and I personally feel it too far fetch hypothesis at this stage as there are no mines operating in Canacona. If mining pits would have to be cause of this phenomenon through intrusion of ground water into the Canacona mountains then it would has to happen gradually first showing the signs in the entire coastal to hinterland landscape. To my information this is not the case and it is counter productive to immerse into opportunism and attribute every occurrence to mining industry without complete investigations. Mining is an independent disaster that has unfolded in Goa chiefly because of greed of business class and actively colluded by State politicians. Mining in Goa has stop in any case. It does not require floods to fuel panic to serve as crutches to the ongoing campaign against mining industry in Goa.

There are still suggestion that there was a phenomena of cloud burst leading to unusually high amount of rainfall that crossed 65 centimeters. Goa gets seasonal rainfall of 255 centimeters and 65 centimeters on single day was beyond usual flow of the Canacona rivers. While it is true that there was this heavy rainfall it is still not the direct cause as the water that was responsible for the floods came from at least five simultaneous explosions driven landslides deep into the Western Ghats mountain range in Canacona.

The question is as to how this unheard of phenomenon occurred? How did the explosions in mountains caused? From where did such massive amounts of water was stored that found its ways into Canacona montains. I have been closely associated with Canacona over the past few years via my association with Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) - and volunteer time shared with Nature Environments Society and Transformations (NEST) for five years - has been concerned about safety of people there. News of floods betrayed my understandings completely. This is from where my inquiries began.

My inquiries with the villages revealed that there is no trace of such an even in their memories. So far I have not come across any records of this kind of phenomena even in local folklore that I have been trying to get insight into for sometime now. So it is a new cause of the flood in combination with various ancillary factors.

What is striking is the magnitude of water flowing from deep inside the forests downwards crossing the Margao-Karwar highway towards Arabian Sea; in between washing away parts of Khotigao and Poinguinim villages washing away roads, bridges, tall trees, houses, animals and also two human beings one of whom was an expert swimmer according to the T.V. documentary prepared by Sandesh Prabhudessai telecasted on private channel ‘Prudent Media’ on October 14, 2009.

At one point documentary points to the spot high on the mountains in Canacona where the cave like opening is visible and from where giant flow of water oozed out from giving rise to the one of five temporary rivers flowing forceful for over one day. This is a very interesting aspect of this documentary. It gives some hints at the possible cause. My thesis is as under:

There is long cave network in the region that is measurable in kilometers. It may have its networks from Rivona in Sanguem to the North of Khotigao to well beyond Goa’s border touching Karnataka to the South of Khotigao Mountains. There are major dams towards both sides of Khotigao Mountains – Selaulim dam towards north of Khotigao in Goa and Supa dam towards South of Khotigao mountains inside Karnataka.

Five points of forceful opening in mountains could be the veins of this cave networked that got burst out after its existing openings were unable to carry the magnitude of water inside the cave network. I am aware of existing cave network in Rivona panchayat jurisdiction. One of opening is where now Hiralal Khodidas mine operated by Fomento mining company is in operation in Colamb It was noticed December 2007 while it opened up and quickly it was covered up to avoid any threat the continuity of its mine operations! There are other openings around too. This is very significant in the light that simultaneous to Canacona floods there were large scale spilling of water in Colamb too. Kushavati river was overflowing that day by one and half meter and noticed by the villagers.

Now the question is from where so much water did entered the caves? My understanding is that there possibly is disruption in the cave network has opened up to receive river full of water from some source possibly for the first time of its existence. What could be the sources then? Mining pits already flooded with water could be one plausible source. The second plausible source could be the pressures from Selaulim and Supa dam created rupture to the age old cave network creating openings the rocks in porous locations and diverting the flow of water blocked by damming of rivers.

The question that arises is that even if this is a possible diversion of water how did it reached mountain tops in Canacona? This could be the case in two circumstances, firstly if the mountains in Canacona are below the water level in Selaulim and Supa dams – which local villagers in Canacona suspect. Secondly, it could be the case that the cave netwoks has vulnerable prevalence its veins in this forests and with slight entry into the network led to the gushing is of Entire River(s) dammed by concrete and iron combination on both Selaulim as well as Supa dams. With the force and pressure generated from the source of entrance into the Cave veins it is immaterial if the water gets openings even above the level of water. Because of these phenomena veins of Cave network burst opened at least five known destinations.

Government of Goa has appointed a committee to investigate these phenomena to understand these phenomena. It is headed by Dr. Satish Shetye, Director of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) to provide official interpretation to the cause of Canacona floods.

In my common sense understanding the water that caused Canacona floods originated from either Supa or Selaulim dam. It is not known if the officially appointed government committee will understand the phenomena and the same conclusion as mine will be arrived at by the officially appointed committee by Goa government as this is a dangerous conclusion for the establishment as it means defiling temples of modern India. My colleague Ramesh Gauns is skeptical about this and he fears that this committee will be used to do another cover up for the establishment and wants somebody deeply and critically engaged involved in Western Ghats ecology to carry on the investigation. I totally support him also from my own understanding as to how Scientists manipulate to serve the business and the State in return for some goodies dished out to them to conceal truth and be at the service of the lobbies that benefit from exploitation of nature. I will not name any scientist here but mining industry is one such example because of which scientists at NIO have ignored mining disaster in Goa for the past 20 years and its past director Dr. Untawale even publicly scolded youth from Pissurlem for raising the issue of destruction of agriculture in Pissurlem, Sattari because of mining on April 01, 2001 at Village Panchayat hall, Old Goa, Goa. This shows the mindset of mainstream scientists in Goa – tradition of bootlicking and cowardice. I had to get up and publicly challenge him on the spot to defend freedom of Speech and Expression! I hope Dr.Shetye will muster all the courage to stand for the truth even if its findings are different from mine. If he doesn’t then nature is a truth with all its bounty and all its fury. Everyone can move ahead smoothly when we understand laws of nature and this is one such moment of lifetime to Dr.Shetye just as it has been moment of reckoning and resilience to People of Canacona.

You may contact journalist who made on the spot video documentation telecasted it on TV Channel ‘Prudent Media’ on October 14, 2009 Sandesh Prabhudesai in case you want to inquire about the flood situation at his mobile number 09422063000. Sandesh himself comes from flood affected Canacona taluka in Goa.

If somebody competent concerned about Western Ghats ecology and critical engagement with is willing to look into this. If interested then please contact Ramesh Gauns to follow up at his mobile number: 09270085105.

Goa’s Public Hospitals in a Mess

FREDDY DIAS turns the spotlight on the numerous problems and deficiencies in Goa’s government hospitals

It is an oft-heard complaint in government hospitals in Goa that while the actual medical treatment is of good quality, it is the other allied services that upset the patients and leave them with a feeling that they should never have gone to such a place. In fact, a cursory survey among patients in major government hospitals (GMC, Bambolim, Asilo, Mapusa, and Hospicio, Margao) throws up a telling statistic – more than 40 per cent of in-patients had approached private doctors before coming to the government hospitals.

No one actually wants to go to a public hospital. If they are there, it is because they had no other choice. Such is the credibility of public hospitals in Goa today that the middle class avoids them entirely. What were once the leading hospitals in the state, and perhaps in the country, have seen a gradual decline, which has been created by the government’s indifference towards public health in the last few decades.

In the 60s or, for that matter, even earlier, during Portuguese rule, when a new patient was admitted in a public hospital, he or she could be sure to find clean sheets, pillow cases and towels on the bed. But today a patient entering a ward is greeted with filthy sheets, soiled pillowcases and no towels. Drug shortages were unheard of then. In sharp contrast, there is a constant shortage of drugs today, and in fact certain essential medicines are not available in public hospitals for several months.

Enquiries at GMC Hospital revealed that stretchers and wheelchair oxygen supplies were available in the ratio of one for ten patients, while half the patients make do without bedpans, urine pots and spittoons. There is a constant scarcity of water supply at the hospital and, as a result, various wards and particularly the toilets are often found to be in filthy and unhygienic condition. A recent report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Health said that it was totally disheartening to see the poor standards of cleanliness in the GMC hospital and called for a thorough review of the performance of various agencies entrusted with the task of cleanliness. “Mere outsourcing of sweeping and swabbing operations to private agencies will not ensure the best standards of cleanliness expected within the premises of the GMC hospital,” the report says.

The GMC hospital, as is the case at all the other government hospitals, has been facing irregular water supply. The scarcity of water is more acute in the hospital laboratories where running water in the taps is very much required for washing test tubes and sterilising medical instruments. As a result, some of the emergency tests pertaining to patients in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are delayed.

Many doctors are also being drawn from government to private hospitals, whose lucrative offers are difficult to resist. The situation will only get worse, with private hospitals coming up everywhere and they are certain to poach the staff at government hospitals, which provide the best training ground for doctors but whose working conditions provide no incentive to stay on.

In fact, as informed to the State Legislative Assembly in response to an unstarred question during the last session of the house, twenty posts of doctors were vacant in various departments of the GMC Hospital. Important departments such as general surgery, orthopaedic, medicine, neuroeurgery do not have adequate number of doctors, while existing staff is compelled to shoulder additional responsibilities.

The Department of Neurosurgery handles 7-10 emergency cases every day and has to perform about 500 operations a year, but it has only three senior consultants, two full-time and one appointed on contract. Similarly, the Orthopaedic Department, which has to handle emergency accident cases besides its regular quota of oethopaedic cases, currently has two posts vacant. According to a senior doctor of the hospital, it is difficult to fill up the vacancies because the pay scale of the government is unattractive in relation to what is offered in the private sector.

Hospital heads blame deteriorating services on sheer numbers. The GMC Hospital alone treats around 7-8 lakh patients in its OPD annually, as patients often bypass peripheral services to come straight to the hospital. GMC Hospital doctors say that 60 per cent of the load in the OPD is due to simple fever and diarrhoea, largely caused by poor living conditions. This would decrease if drinking water and sanitation were improved in the state and then there would be enough resources left in the hospital to treat real illnesses. According to government doctors, overloading is the primary problem in in-patient care, which has led to sharing of beds by patients and putting mattresses on the corridors outside the wards.

The real problem, however, is lack of adequate funding. While the allocation for health has increased considerably over the decades, it is not enough, as in real terms the funds have decreased because it has not accounted adequately for inflation. As a percentage of the total government budget, health has actually dipped from about 36 per cent in the 60s to 28 per cent at present. Of this, 70-75 per cent is spent on salaries of the staff. Moreover, doctors say that while it is not so difficult to buy equipment, it is more difficult to get the necessary funds to maintain it or for other consumables like medicines, gloves, linen, etc. Even when supplies arrive, there is no guarantee that they will reach the patient. For example, while more then seven bedsheets per patient were supplied to the hospital, the number actually available was three, while with towels, two per patient were supplied but none made available.

An official of the Health Department, however, says this will change now, as there has been a decision to allow the hospital heads to directly place orders for one-off purchases of medical supplies and other allied necessities, instead of going through the usual long-drawn procedure. And even while the government official claimed that many of the patients are well off, doctors say that the patients profile is primarily poor, and that 80 per cent of the patients who come to public hospitals are the poorest of the poor, who include migrant labourers and slum dwellers. They simply cannot afford to pay for medical services.

One of the main reasons why people, particularly Goans, are reluctant to approach a public hospital for their health care is the rude behaviour of doctors and nurses. It is mostly the young resident doctors and senior nurses who are rough in their behaviour and language. The Ad Hoc Committee on Health has expressed total dissatisfaction with the attitude of staff at the GMC hospital while dealing with patients and public in general. The Committee feels that the staff who are in direct contact with patients and public should be reoriented in demands of ethics and hospitality services on monthly basis. The Committee also suggested that a scheme of incentives may be instituted for best behaved hospital staff to encourage them to be hospitable towards patients. The effect of the Committee’s report on the government, however, remains to be seen.

Herald October 15 2009 Panaji

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Come to Saptu's House

By Anjoli Bandyopadhyay
December 27, 2003

Up until four months ago, I had no concept of rural life in India. I have lived all my life in Europe and Canada in big cities and one small town. My first glimpses of rural India were rather enchanting as I rolled through the countryside and saw beautiful landscapes and men and women working in fields and wearing bright clothes. I was struck by the number of women I saw working and how this contradicted some preconceived notion I'd had that most women in India lived cloistered lives at home. I was also struck by the sheer variety of vegetation and the overwhelming greenery. I wondered why I had not come to India sooner. The air seemed to be less polluted than in the cities I had visited. But beyond that, I knew nothing of peoples' lives.

My first experience living in a village with a family was in Muschaurem, South Goa in the Western Ghats. Saptu, the head of the household is married to Savitri and they have three daughters and one son. They live in a thatched roof house with one large central room, one small storage room and a small kitchen space at the back. The house is surrounded on two sides by a covered veranda. One side of the veranda protects an old, seventeen year old cow that Savitri brought to the household as her dowry and the cow's two offspring. The other side of the veranda has a game board and chairs for relaxation in the mornings and evenings.

There's a garden in front of the house with roses and small trees and the well is a five minute walk away. There are two dogs and one small cat. Near the cows, there is a large black cauldron for heating water. There are fields surrounding the house and forest land towards the back and a dusty, noisy road a ten minute walk away in front of the house. Large trucks transporting iron ore use this road regularly, breaking the peaceful serenity of the countryside and polluting the air with dust. On the other side of the road are some blue green mountains clothed in mist in the early mornings.

When I first arrived at Saptu's house, we all sat down on the veranda and drank tea. After the initial introductions, Saptu told me that as he has four brothers but no sisters, he was adopting me as a sister. Saptu is lean and dark with a round face and short curly white hair and sparkling eyes. Savitri laughs a lot, unabashedly baring her red betel coloured teeth. I was with a friend who could speak Konkani so I sat back contentedly while everyone chatted. Brother Philip Neri also came to meet us and we were catching up on the peoples' struggle against illegal mining in the area. Mine owners are operating an iron ore mine only three hundred meters away from Saptu's house.

I learned that Timblos had been mining in the area for several years and that this family had noticed severe degradation of their environment and was experiencing losses in their livelihood as a consequence of mining. They used to cultivate rice, millet and sugar cane on their own land and had enough to eat and to sell. But they explained that mining has depleted their water supply as several of their wells have gone dry; last year they were only able to cultivate seven bags of rice as opposed to ten. They have started working on other peoples' land for sustenance.

Saptu added that he used to hunt for wild boar in the forest but is now prohibited from entering the "protected" forest areas. However, mining companies continue to operate on these same lands and deplete the wildlife habitat. Saptu, along with other villagers has been petitioning the government and the forest department to stop illegal mining activities. His seventeen year old daughter Sunita, along with several other village women, physically stopped the water pumps at one illegal mine and effectively shut the mine down. I was drawn to Sunita, an attractive girl, who speaks deftly, understands English, and belongs to a vocal youth group that has participated in a conference in Mumbai.

Suddenly, Savitri stepped back and shrieked and laughed when she discovered a snake among the sweet potatoes. I also uttered some sounds of surprise and horror. My friend, Seby, immediately proceeded to pick the snake up and stroke it gently before wrapping it around his neck. We all watched perplexed until finally one by one we were coaxed into befriending this harmless sand boa and protecting an endangered species. Needless to say, the experience also highlighted the fact that snakes and people are coexisting in an increasingly threatened environment. We all had a good laugh and the cows were milked to make some sweets for us.

Later that afternoon, Sunita, Seby and I went for a trek through the fields to the mine. Sunita led the way and showed us fields where they grow millet and earth that glistens with black iron ore. Sunita was wearing a bright yellow dress that contrasted well with the grasses in the fields so I started photographing her. Initially she was shy. Then we passed by the "markers" that the mining company has placed to indicate that the land is theirs. Some of the stone posts had been uprooted and thrown to the ground; one post was only half uprooted and Sunita finished the job. We laughed hysterically and continued up a mountain slope before reaching the "pit"--a huge black crater with several trucks inside it. I photographed my companions straddling large black rocks at the edge of the crater and then we started back down the mountain.

As we were walking down, a man called out in English, "Excuse me, excuse me…who are you? What are you doing here? Is that a camera you have with you? What photographs have you taken?" There were two men wearing hardhats and they were following us down the mountain. They wanted us to stop and for me to give them the film in my camera. Seby, who was ahead of us said to keep walking. The men continued to pursue us demanding to know what I had photographed and where I was from and what my name was. Sunita had been holding on to my hand, helping me to negotiate my way down the slope. Her grip tightened as we sped down the mountain. I almost tripped. Seby started answering back: "We are from Saptu's house… come to Saptu's house." The men continued to demand answers and wanted to know who Saptu was. And Seby replied that "Saptu is king."

When we got home, I realized that we were laughing nervously because we were scared. What had started out as an innocent trek through land that had once been beautiful and accessible to this family had become an act of defiance and we had been harassed for it. Philip Neri was there and we continued our discussion about how people are living in Goa. Philip mentioned that his life had been threatened for challenging the mine owners and their activities.

That evening as we relaxed, the whole family, Seby, and I sat down for a dinner which consisted of a heaping plate of rice, some fish curry, some vegetable curry and a nutritious drink made from millet called "Ambil". All leftovers are assembled and given to the dogs and the small cat. The cat was near Saptu's plate and he was giving it small pieces of fish. I noted the difference in how Saptu treated animals and how I'd seen animals kicked aside in big cities.

I was comfortable but exhausted and wondering where I would be sleeping. There are no beds in the house, only straw mats. After we had all finished dinner and gone out to the black cauldron to wash our hands and faces, the mats were laid out and blankets were brought out. Saptu lay down on one side of the main room by the door, Seby and Mohindra went into the storage room and Savitri, the three girls and I lay down side by side on the other side of the main room.

Savitri woke up very early the next morning to get water from the well, milk the cows and make tea, vegetables and millet pancakes for breakfast. People started waking up one by one and going to the well to brush their teeth and have a bath. Sunita's sister Surekha was washing clothes and her other sister Sujata was going to school and writing exams. After my bath at the well, I used hot water to wash my hair. Then, like the other girls, I put coconut oil in my hair before brushing it. Saptu was dipping the pancakes in his sweet tea before eating them and I followed suit. It was delicious! Mohindra had dressed up to go to a job interview for a posting as an accountant so we wished him luck.

Sunita, Seby and I went on a different trek this time. We visited Anil's house and he showed us around his fields. His family had been cultivating rice, cucumber, gourds, chillies, coconuts and other fruit. His family was intent on showing me how the quality of their soil has been affected by mining activities so, after a walk through some wilderness, I watched a boy sink half of a long pole in the earth of a rice paddy. I learned that five years ago, the pole would have been sunk completely due to the soil being very fertile. I was shown medicinal plants and taken to a shrine in the caves. Anil wishes to preserve his way of life and the quality of the soil. When I asked Anil and his relatives whether they knew of any remedies for insomnia or mosquito bites they informed me that they didn't need remedies for either of these ailments. They have remedies for snake bite and intestinal pains. But even these plants are threatened by environmental damage.

I stayed in Muschaurem that evening and attended a village meeting with Saptu, Philip, Sunita and Anil and Seby. People gathered together, talked, and decided to block the trucks transporting iron ore on the roads; they are protesting illegal mining. They've had enough of the silt deposits in their fields, the water shortages, losing their land, and pollution. They started their actions that night and a few days later those mines were closed. I spent a second night at Saptu's house.

I wish to thank Saptu and his family for their remarkable hospitality and I hope to return to Saptu's house for Sunita's wedding, whenever that will take place. Saptu told me that Seby and I were the first "guests" who had stayed in his house; I want to say that Saptu and his family gave me my first opportunity to experience rural life in India. And though the experience was brief, it was educational and inspiring. I'm hoping that people living in rural areas will have the chance and the courage to fight for ways of life that suit them and that are worth fighting for.

Turtles, Minerals and People in Goa

By Anjoli Bandyopadhyay
December 12, 2003

On November 30, 2003 three people from the Forest Department and the Ministry of the Environment “inspected” the beach in Morgim, a small coastal village in Goa. Their official mandate was the protection of the Olive Ridley Turtles that lay their eggs on this beach at night. If the turtles are disturbed or if their nests are raided for food, turtles will not return to Morgim beach. According to Forest Department officials, this is one of the few beaches in Goa that still has Olive Ridley Turtles nesting on it. These turtles are also known to lay eggs on beaches in Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and in the neighbouring state of Maharastra. So Goa, as a “state,” has an interest in protecting the Olive Ridley Turtles on the beach in Morgim.

The “inspection” of the beach resulted in the demolition of several “beach shacks” that serve food to tourists. These beach shacks are built of bamboo and are run by local entrepreneurs. The Forest Department had several recommendations one of which was the immediate removal of the unlicensed shacks that were pushing back sand dunes and encroaching on turtle nesting areas. The turtles are not threatened with extinction but the Forest Department Officers are intent on protecting them and attracting a certain kind of tourist to Goan beaches. They mentioned the need to cater to “upscale” tourists who will pay more to see the turtles, and dolphins and clean beaches.

Some shack owners are not convinced that the Forest Department is merely intent on protecting the turtles. The shack owners are mostly locals whose fathers were fishermen or toddy tappers who have chosen to work in Goa’s tourist industry, second only to the mining industry. They fear that the Forest Department is paving the way for large five star hotels to establish themselves further inland and that they will lose their lucrative but small businesses catering mostly to lower income English and European office workers and partying Israeli youths. The shack owners are already struggling with the government’s rising licensing fees which were raised from 15000 Rupees per annum to 50000 Rupees per annum and then dropped back to 15000 Rupees.

The fight for the survival of Olive Ridley Turtles began in 1996 when a concerned inhabitant of Morgim wrote to several organizations about the need to protect the turtle nests. The Goa Foundation, an environmentalist group, responded and with the Forest Department started patrolling the beach and convincing the locals not to eat or sell the eggs. In fact the Morgim villagers and shack owners actively participated in the turtle protection “programme.” However, the action may not be having its desired effects now that the Forest Department is targeting Morgim for five star hotels. The villagers of Morgim are quite rightly asking themselves whether they or their children will reap the benefits of tourism on their beach. In fact many of the villagers are already unemployed and poor or employed in Kuwait or Canada. The five star hotels will not be owned and run by local people but by the same people who own Goan forests, plants, fertilizers and mines.

Mining, tourism, and agriculture are now the main sources of income in Goa. These resources are all land based and at present there is a struggle for use of these lands. Goa has what is called extensive laterization, that is, vast underground brick formations of iron ore and manganese. One estimate of Goan iron ore reserves is 600 to 800 million tonnes. Other minerals found in Goa are bauxite, quartz, and saline clay. The laterite formations of iron and manganese ore store water and as Goa receives heavy rainfall, there has never been a shortage of water for forests and agriculture. Goa is also blessed with at least 265 days of clear sunshine every year. People have been growing millet, rice, vegetables, fruits, areca nut, cashew, coconut, and mangoes. However, as mining continues and the iron ore reserves are depleted, water shortages, water contamination and flooding are becoming major problems affecting the state’s agricultural economy and outlook for the future. The most common complaints are dry wells, drops in the water table, and silt deposits in the fields and rivers.

Pissurlem, North Goa

The situation in the village of Pissurlem, North Goa, is very serious. Damodar Mangalji & Company (DMC) started its mining activities near the village of Pissurlem in 1947. The villagers were already relocated twenty years ago to accommodate the mine and accepted compensation for their land. Five hundred families were living on the land currently occupied by the mine and one hundred and fifty farmers were granted compensation for their land as per the Ministry of Agriculture guidelines. Some of the villagers have not received their compensation yet. A road was built to transport rejection ore but many of the villagers opposed its construction. In 1992 people started blocking the roads to protest the illegal dumping of rejection ore on Forest Reserve lands. Many of the villagers, including Hanuman (?), were arrested and had to fight the mine in the courts. In fact, the villagers have many complaints and are considering not selling more of their land and relocating a second time as the mine expands.

Their main concerns are the shortage of water for their fields, contamination of their drinking water, dust pollution and silt deposits in their fields. This open cast iron ore mine has already created a large pit below the natural groundwater table resulting in a water reservoir filling the pit. The mine is draining the pit of water with pumps in order to access iron ore and diverting the water towards a river that flows out to the Arabian Sea. The villagers have asked that the water be diverted to their remaining fields for agriculture but the mine is refusing to do so. The farmers are not as productive as they were before due to shortage of water. The springs and wells have dried up and the villagers must rely on water pumped in to a village tank by the mine. They are drinking water that contains mining silt and are experiencing many health problems such as diarrhea. Their children are visiting doctors twice a month. They are also breathing in mining dust and many people are suffering from asthma and tuberculosis. Their fields are muddied with silt and they cannot grow enough rice.

There is an ongoing struggle between the inhabitants of Dhatwada in Pissurlem and the mine owners for basic rights and control over the remaining land. DMC is intent on displacing this village to a different locality and extracting the ore beneath their fields. The villagers have noticed "cracks" in the land and in their homes due to the mine's blasting activities and have asked that their homes be rebuilt on safer "agricultural" land in the area. They are asking for "155,320 Sq.mts of agricultural land" and the company is stalling by asking for legal proof. The company's offer "in order to save time and come to amicable settlement" is twofold; the company claims that it "cannot find any land in the vicinity fit for agriculture and equivalent to the area claimed by the residents of Dhatwada" and "proposes that if the villagers are agreeable it would transfer an area of 50,000 Sq.mts in Saleli yielding rubber plantation and about 75,000 Sq.mts of similar land in Kumarkhand." The company's alternative is that the Government acquire the land at the cost of the company and "the villagers be paid cash equivalent of their interest." The villagers don't want to be dependent on mines or rubber plantations for their livelihood. They want sustainable agriculture on their fields.

The social impact of mining on the Pissurlem villagers has been very negative. A recent article from the Herald cites a study showing that "those in mining areas suffered from higher duration of sicknesses, frequency of sickness and consequently intensity of sickness." The Pissurlem villagers report that people from non-mining villages are not responding to their marriage proposals. It is especially difficult for them to bring girls in from non-mining villages as people don't want to live in the mining dust and drink the water from the reservoir tank and polluted milk. Girls from Pissurlem seek husbands in non-mining villages. Women who worked in the fields twenty years ago no longer work in the fields and stay at home. Women who worked in the mines twenty years ago have lost their jobs due to the mechanization of loading. The only jobs available to women are serving water to the male labourers. There are only three women from Pissurlem employed in this way. The children of Pissurlem go to a school built not even 50 metres away from a rejection ore dumping site.

The villagers do not believe that the mine will provide them or their children with adequate employment opportunities now or in the future and they wish to successfully cultivate their rice paddies. Many men are unemployed. Only four villagers were "compensated" with trucks to transport the ore. The people of Dhatwada have asked DMC "to provide two permanent employments to each family as per their qualification." The company has refused to do this as "it cannot employ any more employees as it is already having surplus staff." The company adds that "almost all of the families of Dhatwada have at least one of their members working with the company." But according to the villagers, of the 700 people living in the two wadas of Dhatwada and Panchawada, only 32 men are working at the DMC mine, 8 men are working at the Sesa Goa mine and three women are working serving water at both these mines. And the villagers are already thinking about how they might earn a living twenty years from now when there won't be any more iron ore to extract from their land.

Rivona, Sanguem Taluka, South Goa

(Two neighbouring) villages in Sanguem in South Goa have similar stories. One village has been relocated as was Pissurlem. Only this time, the people were displaced by the government in order to construct a dam.. The Portuguese had constructed good dams (where) two rivers (meet and) the people of this village and neighbouring villages were cultivating rice and sugarcane). But in the name of "agricultural development," three villages were displaced and (split into six wadas) They were placed on dry lands with dry wells) and expected to) cultivate sugarcane and not rice (because rice requires water every four days). (Many people) , are not producing enough sugarcane to survive, have turned to drink and have taken loans to pay for food and drink. They no longer have a staple supply of rice to eat. While the villagers cannot eat due to water shortages, private pipelines take water from the government dam to five star hotels owned by (Dempos and Timblos). The villagers speak of corruption in the village panchayats.

In this region, communication is difficult as people are afraid to talk. Corruption, harassment and much monitoring of village activities prevents people from speaking about their lives and connecting with other people. Some of the tribal women working in a mine have to walk up and down hills for an hour and a half, morning and evening, to get to work and home again. They are watched by supervisors who are not local; these managers often accompany them home and prohibit them from speaking to anyone on the way. Some locals have reported sexual exploitation in the mines. The mining companies also employ sweepers for the public roads that their trucks use for transportation of the ore. These roads are damaged by frequent use and covered in mining dust. The sweepers are usually placed near shops and bars used by the locals and people are constantly watching each other and listening to what is said. When outsiders arrive and visit the Kushavati River, which is public, mine employees are dispatched to enquire about identity and take photographs of the visitors. If an outsider associated with a villager makes a phone call at a public pay phone, that phone number is tracked.

In Mushcaurem village, one or more members of the families have worked with the Timblos mining company. In Sunita's family, her sister Surehka worked in the mine located only 300 metres away from their land and home. She worked there for three years but had to stop when she had constant headaches and started losing her eyesight. Sunita's family is now surviving on the milk they sell from the cow Sunita's mother brought in as dowry on her wedding day. The family can no longer cultivate its own land and has been forced to work on other peoples' land. Whereas they used to get twenty bags of rice per year, now they only get seven. The reasons are always the same. The wells have gone dry and their fields are silted.

The mining company wants to expand its operation and routinely hands out applications for compensation to the villagers. Timblo industries and the Goa government filed an application under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, to mine the ore on forest land used by the villagers of the Mushcaurem and Colomba villages. But the villagers are resisting this attempt to displace them for the ore. They want to continue living off their land and they have written to the Forest Advisory Committee that "these high mountains which are a part of the Western Ghats form a natural watershed, that bring forth water through countless perennial springs, which we use for drinking, domestic purposes, irrigation of crops and dairy farming."

The villagers also complain that the Forest Department evicts them from forest land for wildlife conservation that is then turned over to ganja plantations and mining operations. They used to hunt for wild boar in the forests but the Forest Department routinely patrols the forest to keep hunters out. However, the Forest Department turns a blind eye to the illegal mining taking place on these same reserve forest lands. The villagers, including Sunita's father Saptu Faterpekar and Anil Sawant, note in their letter to the Forest Advisory Committee that since 1996, "the diversion of forest land under Forest Conservation Act, in the above mentioned Survey Nos., was clandestinely being done."

On November 30, 2003, after protests and road blocks in Dandolem near Muschaurem, the government finally sent "inspectors" from the Panjim area out to the Sanguem area to monitor mining activities in the wildlife conservation areas of Verlem, Tudov and Salgini. Mining companies were aware of the inspection and stopped their operations. The village youth stopped the trucks at Kevona knowing that these trucks were involved in illegal mining activity. Some of the villagers had accompanied the government Field Officer on the inspections. However, later that evening, the mine owners arrived with formal permissions to mine from the Forest Department and the trucks were released. Again, the Forest Department doesn't seem to be too interested in protecting wildlife. As soon as illegal mining activities are challenged by the people, unrestricted "permissions" are given to mining companies in conservation areas. But the forests are vigilantly patrolled to prohibit Sunita's father from occasional hunting.

The Problem

The Portuguese seriously started mining activities in Goa in 1906 by granting mining concessions to certain Goan families in exchange for land, conversions to Christianity, liquor and women. These concessions were granted in perpetuity with the government merely reserving the right to supervise the extraction of ores. The lucky families, known as the “Goan industrial houses” still own the mines that are in operation today in spite of several attempts to redistribute and regulate mining activity. After “Liberation” from the Portuguese in 1961, the Indian government enforced the Mines and Minerals Act 1957 by distributing eighty new mining leases. However the new government did not cancel the Portuguese mining concessions. The mining concessions were to be abolished in 1987 with the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions Act, also known as the Abolition Act. But the mine owners successfully challenged this in court and have been able to continue their activities. So today, the Chowgules, the Dempos, the Timblos, the Salgaocars, DMC, Sesa Goa and others basically own the laterite iron and manganese ore reserves in Goa and have been given free reign to deplete these reserves without providing for the land or its people.

Mining, forestry and agriculture in Goa have a long history of association. Forestry began with the Fransiscan and Jesuit priests in the sixteenth century who needed teak wood to build Churches and for ship building in Portugal. The Jesuits were the first to plan “reforestation” with teak plantations and in 1771 the Portuguese set up an office for agriculture and forestry together. The forests came under state ownership and were divided into Reserve Forest and Protected Forest lands. The government has complete control over activities in the forests. In 1958 the Directorate of Agriculture and Forests and the Directorate of Mines were brought under one combined Directorate. The Forest Conservation Act came about in 1980. Some indications that the Forest Department works in tandem with the mine owners have been gleaned by the Goa Foundation; Goa Foundation reports that while official data states that only 480 hectares of forest lands were used for mining, the TERI (Tata Energy Research Institute) Report notes that 2528 hectares of forest land disappeared between 1988 and 1997 alone. The Forest Department has more of an interest in protecting mining companies contributing to the "development" of Goa's economy than in protecting the land, the people and wildlife.

The main mining lobbies in Goa are Dempo’s, Salgaoncar, Timblos, Sesa Goa, and DMC. Dempos claims to have been birthed in 1600 with “a fleet of small sailing crafts called Pangayas set sail.” This enterprise, "launched by the Dempo family” has grown to encompass mining, carbon manufacture, publications, and five star hotels on Goa's famous beaches. According to one report, the Dempos own almost the entire fishing village of Siridao. Salgaoncar, Timblos, Sesa Goa and DMC have remarkably similar profiles. All own and fund colleges in Goa. All of them own major publications and all of them are shareholders in five star hotels. Several of them are into construction and have a history in shipbuilding. Timblos, founded by Gurudas Timblo, has mining leases, beneficiation plants, magnetic separation plants and more significantly, barge fleets. Chowgules, with "modest beginnings in 1916…. had been exporting tin scrap, coconut oil, wood and bamboo to the Middle East..." also owns breweries, colleges, shipbuilding companies and construction companies. The turtle protection programme in Morgim was as much about fighting hunting and gathering of turtle eggs and the five star construction lobby as fighting the fishing trawler lobby. The government and the Forest Department use the conservation of Olive Ridley Turtles as an excuse to clear the way for Dempos and Timblos and Salgaoncar hotels on Morgim beach and bigger fishing trawlers owned by these same mining barons. Like turtles and minerals, the people are generally silent.


Anil, one of Sunita's neighbours in Mushaurem, South Goa, has never worked in the mines but his parents and his sister Prema did. Prema quit Timblos after two years because of "harassment." She, like Sunita's sister Surehka, was also suffering from constant headaches. Anil is fighting the mine as he has noticed that his land is no longer as fertile as it used to be. He sees the silt deposits in his fields and notes the declining yields. He grows rice, cucumbers, coconuts and other vegetables. Several years ago, he took government advice and swapped his cow dung fertilizer and seeds developed by his ancestors for seeds and fertilizer sold to him yearly by a company called Birla. Birla is also a major mining company in India responsible for the extraction of bauxite in Andhra Pradesh. Anil is now wondering whether the seeds and fertilizer he is now depending on are actually increasing or lowering his productivity. He is looking into returning to "organic farming." His practices are fostering a dangerous dependence on the corporations that control all of Goa's resources. In short, mining companies, with the help of the state government, have been systematically evicting people from their land and destroying traditional "sustainable" agriculture in Goa by mining, by leaving silt deposits, by leaving water filled craters, by creating water shortages, and by selling seed and chemical fertilizers to the farmers.

Birla Group is now a multinational corporation from Calcutta primarily in mining, cement, and jute. EMIL, a closely held company of the AV Birla group, is engaged in three diverse businesses - mining of iron ore, manufacture of ferro alloys, and the manufacture of woven sacks catering primarily to the packaging needs of the fertilizer industry. The Birla group is also involved in the extraction of phosphates for the manufacture of fertilizers. Phosphorous is the main component of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium fertilizers used on food crops throughout the world. In 1999, Birla Group of India and Office Cherifien des Phosphates in Morocco started a joint venture in mining phosphates in Morocco and Birla uses almost two thirds of the production in its fertilizer subsidiaries in India; now Birla must sell its fertilizers. So Birla, like other MNCs has yet another vested interest in mining forest lands for the extraction of minerals and in destroying traditional "sustainable" agriculture of villagers in India.