Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mining- the enemy of agriculture in Goa

Talukas of Sattari, Bicholim, Sanguem and Quepem has been historically witnessed flourishing agriculture with rice as a major multiple crop. This was largely possible due to the availability of abundant water. People worked hard in their fields and got their sustenance and livelihood from the paddy fields.

However all this is rapidly changing with the coming of open cast mining industry aggressively plundering iron ore, manganese and bauxite from Goa. The agricultural fields are one of the prime targets of the mining industry mostly for the reasons of dumping of mining silt and for the ore that lies under the soil where fields are located. The most favorite strategy in place by the mining companies is that of paying of compensation for the loss caused. This is the case in Pissurlem in Sattrai, Sirgao, Mayem and Advalpal in Bicholim, Colamb in Sanguem and so many other places. The ideology of compensation is monetary benefit to the person who has lost his agriculture due to mining. This is however rejected by some bold communities in the agriculture and instead decided to take up cudgels against the mining industry.

The village of Sirgao in Bicholim stands out in this context. The number of people in the village that are challenging the three operating mines in their village – Dempos that is taken over by British corporate Vedanta, Chowgules, and Bandekars. They filed public interest litigation in Goa bench of Bombay High Court in June 2008. The court directed Nagpur based National Environment Engineering Institute (NEERI) to conduct scientific study. NEERI submitted its study in March 2009 confirming that mining activity has caused depletion of ground water in the village causing drying up of village wells and springs. It also confirmed that large amount of deposition of mining silt has taken place in the agricultural fields of the village and paddy cultivation has not been possible. NEERI submitted the plan to rejuvenate the water sources and remove mining silt from paddy fields at the cost of approximately 1.8 lakhs per hectare. The total amount that mining companies would have to pay to NEERI to restore Sirgao’s agriculture and recharge groundwater is Rs. 660.25 lakhs.

What is the story of Sirgao that is proved scientifically is the story of every village under mining in Goa. Water and Food security of Goa is deeply threatened.

Sebastian Rodrigues

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