PANAJI: Accusing the Goa government of shielding illegal mining in the state, the Goa Roman Catholic Church has asked people to "awaken" and save the hills, forests and tribals residing in the hinterland.
In a message to its flock on the occasion of Social Apostolate Day Oct 3, the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), the social arm of the Roman Catholic Church here, and Caritas, the Church's development arm, has accused the Congress-led coalition government in the state of "bad, insensitive governance".
"Should not the government have taken immediate steps to stop illicit mining activities? If this is not bad governance, what else is it? Goans, awaken and together save our hills, our forests, the ‘aam admi' of those areas and rest of us!," states the message titled 'Environmental Value of Biodiversity -- a Common Responsibility', a copy of which his available with IANS.
The message is endorsed by CSJP executive secretary Fr. Maverick Fernandes and Caritas director Fr. Valeriano Vaz.
Calling mining in the state "illegal" and "immoral", the CSJP has also said that illegal mining for iron ore was rapidly destroying Goa and the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats, in which 104 operational mines in Goa are located.
"Environmentally immoral and in many cases illegal mining for iron ore is rapidly destroying Goa," the message states.
The Church castigates the state's politicians, accusing them of being blind to the loss of traditional occupations and livelihood of farmers and others who earned on the produce of the forest.
"Statements by politicians that this industry provides jobs to a large number of people and hence must be permitted to prosper, reveal how little these persons in power are concerned about the irreparable destruction of the lower slopes of the Western Ghats, the devastating pollution of air, soil and water which threaten the basic health and well-being of the people of the area, including the labour force," the message states.
The Church in Goa is an influential organistion with over 25 percent of the state population being Christian.
Illegal and unchecked mining is a sensitive issue in Goa, with both civil society groups and the opposition voicing their concern about the issue repeatedly. According to data submitted in the monsoon session of the Goa legislative assembly, ore worth Rs.4,000 crore was illegally mined and exported out of Goa to countries like China, Japan and Romania.
Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar claims that nearly 18 percent of Goa's total 40 million mining output comprised of illegally mined ore. He has also accused Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and several of his cabinet ministers of being in hand-in-glove with the illegal mining industry.