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.

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