Monday, November 30, 2009

How mining companies are cheating Goa's tribal people

The below are depositions on mining before the People's Tibunal headed by Justice Hosbet Suresh, a retired High Court Judge from Bombay High Court, held on May 30-31, 2009 in Panaji.

Soiru Kushali Sawant, Colomba, Rivona:
Soiru is in possession of Forest land. He has Matriz documents granted by erstwhile Portuguese Colonial State in 1819. Forest department however has established its control over this land and gave permissions to cut down thousands of forest trees. The beneficiary of this is Radha Timblo who runs mining company and wants to expand its existing mining lease in the name of Baddruddin Mavani. Case against Forest department has been filed in Collector’s office in Margao that has been adjourned over 35 times in the past 5 years without Forest department filing a reply. His Matriz documents are recognised by the State any more and this has caused problems and sufferings to him like so many other tribal people in Goa.

Rama Ladu Velip, Colamb, Rivona, Sanguem:
His family owns land that bears survey number 16/1 in Colamb village. It is a hilly terrain but his family has various types of plantations such as Jackfruit, Mango, and coconut, and other fruits and vegetable. The entire family is dependent upon this land for their sustenance. This land also forms a part of mining lease belonging to Lidia Simoes. The mining lease was granted during Portuguese colonial rule. This mine was stopped in 1964 and it is closed ever since. Now however due to demand for iron from China there is rush for mining and rapidly so many of mining leases are getting started. His village of Colmba and surrounding villages in Quepem and Sanguem Talukas are rich deposits of Iron Ore and there is increasing efforts by mining companies and Indian government to start mines to extract ore. This rush for minerals however is affecting people and environment. People that are residing in the vicinity are around 2500 and majority (95%) of them are adivasis. Livelihood options of these people are directly at stake. Rama Velip urged that mining leases be cancelled.

There is movement going on against Fomento Mining Company that is carrying on mining activities in Colamb. The movement has been going on since 2007. This particular mine is affecting land measuring over 200 hectares. 80 families are directly affected as their agricultural fields are facing mining silt and water shortages. While struggling in defense of their livelihood threatened by mining company People of Colamb has suffered state violence. Several police cases are filed and several people arrested, and court cases have begun in Sanguem and Quepem Courts. First arrests took place in 2007 when 6 people were arrested. Majority of these arrested were women. After their release several applications complaining about what is happening to their agriculture and forest land were filed before various authorities such as Mamlatdar and Collector – South Goa. No actions was taken by these authorities in response to the villagers complaints. Mining activities are going on in the survey number 57 that is identified as Forest under Sawant and Karapurkar Committee. Villagers filed complaints with the Forest department but even then no action was taken by forest department against mining company. Presently mining activities are going on continuously.

In 2008 protest 86 people were arrested while they were peacefully protesting against the mining company in Colamb. False cases were filed by mining company that villagers attacked them and destroyed their computers. For this 8 people were arrested and put into police lock up at Quepem Police Station. Inside the police station Slates were put around their neck and photographed – practice followed very often by police with regard to hardcore criminals. Why police is doing this when people are protesting to assert their rights? Why are they treated like criminals?

The mining the way it is going presently continues then Colamb village will surely get finished. This village has totally 1929 hectares of land out of which 1510 hectares are covered with mining leases. Presently 5 mines are in operation. 4 more has finished their Public Hearing. Another one mine has declared announced its public hearing sometime in near future. Where will 2500 people of the village go in this context?

People are put under pressure in various ways. Judiciary too is used as a pressure tactic to break villagers moral from fighting for their right to life and livelihood. 2 cases are going on in Sanguem Court, 1 case is going on in Quepem Court. Another once case is coming up in Quepem court. Additionally fresh notices are issued against those who are protesting against mining. Police harassment is continuously going on in Colamb village. Colamb villager’s fight is in defense of livelihood in a democratic manner. They are worried that water sources will be totally destroyed in the process of mining. Not only colamb village is affected due to mining, it is entire South Goa is going to face acute water shortages if the mining continue to flourish in Sanguem and Quepem Talukas. Fields are dried up due to mining.

South Goa Collector is totally silent on the villager’s complaints. Mining truck owners and truck drivers ruling the state machinery in the mining belt. In one instance recently when traffic police stopped mining truck as it was overloaded and rash driving, truck drivers in the town of Sanvordem confiscated ‘challan’ book from the Policeman’s hand and torn it apart went away with the truck.

During past few years complaints are filed with various authorities. Some of these authorities include Mamlatdar, Deputy Collector, Collector, Forest Department, Water Resource Department, Goa State Pollution Control Board, Chief Secretary, Chief Minister and Governor. One of the Governors M.C. Jamir even visited Colamb village and witnessed the destruction of villages by mining activities. However his visit yielded no concrete result to the village as no steps were taken to stop mining activities in Colamb village. In fact mining company has deployed goons to intimidate the villagers protesting mining activities.

There is very clear nexus between Mining companies with Forest Department and Department of Mines and Geology. The moment one department is petitioned immediately other department comes to know about it along with the Mining companies. This is indeed very dangerous situation.

Liquor consumption has increased in the village with the beginning of mining activities. Before the mine started there was only one liquor shop in the village. But now the number has increased to 10 in 2009.

Lease owners of the mines include the following:
1. Marzook Cadar, a Pakistani national who expired. His mining lease is operated by Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Anil Salgaonkar but contracted to Urban Development Minister Joaquim Alemao.
2. Sheikh Adam, a Pakistani national who expired.
3. Badruddin Mavany, a Pakistani national who expired. His mining lease is operated by Radha Timblo.
4. Lidia Simoes, a French national who expired. Her mining lease is not operated by any one.
How these mining leases did is operated by mining companies without getting the leases transferred. There is an element of illegality here in the operation of mining trade in these instances.

Besides companies especially Minister Joaquim Alemao’s Raissa mining company threatens everyone who does not accept money and refuses to compromise with mining companies.

Some mines have got renewal of their leases and operate, some has not got renewal of their leases but still operate. Lots of mining leases are in Government Forest and even in sanctuaries. This allegation however was denied by the Deputy Conservator of Forest, Milind Kharkhanis who was present and deposed before the Jury.

Forest department is involved in destroying natural forest and in its place. This allegations too was refuted by Milind Khakanis while he deposed before the Jury.

Milind Karkhanis, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Goa:
Provisions in Forest Conservation Act 1980 empower state governments to act on the complaints only in the cases of ‘Reserved Forest’ and ‘Protected Areas’. State Forest Department is in no position to stop mining activities going on in ‘Government Forest’. On the complaints about mining activities in Forest lands only Central Government is empowered to act. And the officers that are responsible to act on this are located in Bangalore and they are not known to have acted ever on any complaints from Goa. State Forest Department is taking action under the Trees Act that has paltry sum as penalty. So Goa’s ‘Government Forest’ is open for abuse.

Goa has about 1,200 square kilometers of Forest. Out of which nearly 700 square kilometers (67%) is Protected Forest. 67 square kilometers is ‘Private Forest’.

Forest department faced mining related litigation in one case wherein Rama Ladu Velip approached High Court regarding right of mining company to use the road in forest to transport mining ore. Since the road was already in use High Court refused to consider transportation of ore from road that passes from Forest land in Colamb as ‘use of forest land for non forest purpose’.

There are reports that Goa’s Forest is has declined by 18% due to mining activities. Karkahnis stated that this is an inflated figure but he had no figure to provide. He submitted that no tree cutting is allowed in ‘Private Forest’ but it is allowed in ‘Government Forest’.

More forest area needs to be identified immediately or else it will go under mining. Sanguem has 570 square Kilometers of Forest. This taluka also have 295 mining leases. Forest department has to prepare feasibility study report as to what mining activities at this scale will do to the Forest. Forest Deputy conservator stated that this can be done only if the directive comes from the State government or it will not be done.

Forest officer present Milind Karkhanis was also questioned about absence of Forest Department from Public Hearings conducted wherein Forest land is involved in mining activities. Instances from Quepem, Sanguem and Sattari mining Public Hearings were cited wherein Forest Department was absent.

Forest Officer submitted that it is duty of the Forest Department to be present at the Public Hearings conducted by Collector and Goa State Pollution Control Board (GPSCB).

In Cavrem, Quepem Forest Areas are depicted as active mining leases in RP-2021 even though there are no active mining leases operating there. Survey number 19/1 of Cavrem village was cited as evidence to this. Forest Department has been lapsed in its duty to check and safeguard status of Forest from getting demarcated as active mining leases as far as RP-2021 is concerned.

Shanu Sagun Velip, Cavrem, Quepem

In survey number 19/1 of Cavrem mining company has cut trees. In this land cultivated by Shanu Sagun Velip there are Coconut trees, banana trees, cashew cultivation, beetlenut plantations etc. This has been shown in Goa Regional Plan 2021 as active mining lease. The problem are caused to the local tribal villagers because of mining company adjacent to his property. Its owner is Government of Goa. Mining companiy tells Shanu that this land belongs to the forest department and not to the Shanu and his family. The open cast iron ore mine is operating within the distance of 5-7 kms from his house.

Shanu is dependent upon this land as his sole livelihood. He does not have any another occupation to lean upon or any kind of business to engage in. There are seven people in his family and all of them are engaged in agriculture activities. Mining rejects dumped by mining company is likely to enter his house as well as his agricultural fields.

This mine is known as Sheikh Salim mine and nearly 18 houses exist in its vicinity.

Discussion on this case participated by Jury members and Expert Panel members:

According to the debates in the Goa Assembly there are 126 operating mining leases in the State of Goa. According to the Goa Regional Plan – 2021 there are 99 operating mining leases.

In the first draft of Regional Plan 2021 no mining leases were shown in Carvem Panchayat jurisdiction. Mining leases were shown in the second draft of Regional Plan 2021 in Cavrem Panchayat jurisdiction.

Shanu Sagun Velip is involved in cultivation for the past 50 years in Cavrem. However during the past two years with the onset of open cast iron ore mining lots of destruction has taken place to the Bhat (Horticulture) and Xett (Agriculture). Shanu questioned “in this circumstance what he is supposed to do?”

Shanu’s familily used spring water for the drinking, cooking, washing and cultivation purpose. There is spring close by that originates in the mountains. Spring water is reduced due to mines.

This mining lease is part of very good aquifer. Mining is actively destroying good aquifers in the State of Goa.

No comments: