Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tribes questions mining in Curtorim

The Scheduled Tribes Association of Sao Jose de Areal village, Salcete denounces the Public Notice in the Herald dated 8th October 2010 declaring the intention of Communidade of Curtorim to hold an auction on 17th and 18th of October 2010 for establishing quarries and crushers on common lands of our village.

The gaunkars of Sao Jose de Areal condemn this illegal and anti-people decision taken by the Communidade of Curtorim and demand that the same be dropped immediately. It is learnt that the Communidade has made announcements regarding the auction in Curtorim and Maina Churches on sunday 10th October 2010, but has not informed us, either directly or through our parish. By failing to inform us, the Communidade has exposed its vested interests and absence of bonafides towards the ST community of our village.

The hills of our village are common lands, traditionally used for sustainable uses only, such as forestry and agriculture in their diverse forms and housing for villagers. RP 2021 shows the hills of Sao Jose de Areal as Orchard zone and no development slopes. In fact, most of these hills are covered under social forestry agreements between the forest department and the communidade of Curtorim, as per agreements dated 5th June 1991 and 14th December 1992. The RP 2001 also shows these hills as being under social forestry.

During recent years, large scale illegal quarrying for basalt stone extraction has destroyed many sections of our hills. In spite of our struggles to save our village, the destruction has continued unabated. The ecology, water security, soil generation and the very survival of our village is dependent on the well-being of these hills. The sustainability of the large population of our village is not possible without these hills. It is essential that a restoration plan be prepared so that these hills are returned to their natural glory, rather than auctioning them for irreversible destruction.

The majority of the villagers of Sao Jose de Areal belong to Scheduled Tribes. The hills of our village rightfully belong to us, the original residents of our village, even though the custody rests with the Communidade of Curtorim on account of the historical ties between the villages of Sao Jose De Areal and Curtorim. The Forest Rights Act gives statutory recognition to our rights over the forests of our village and any attempt to alienate them from us is illegal under this new legislation. The Gram Sabha of Sao Jose de Areal has also unanimously resolved to stop all basalt quarries in our village. The villagers can no longer tolerate the pollution caused by the quarrying and crushing activities.

The auction proposed to be held on 17th and 18th of October 2010 is not only against the Commundade's code and the Forest Rights Act, but also violates the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, since the land is forest land. Therefore, the Communidade of Curtorim must take up a plan for the restoration of the hills, rather than to encourage further destruction of our village to fill the pockets of a few. As a sustainable alternative, we propose that the Communidade of Curtorim consider allowing the villagers to use the same lands for forestry, agriculture and grazing. The rate proposed by the Communidade for quarrying is Rs. 18/- per sq meter, and for crusher units is Rs. 8/- per sq meter. We are prepared to pay the same rate for our traditional uses of our lands, including cultivation and grazing.

We hope that better sense shall prevail and that we are not forced to take further measures to protect that which belongs to us and countless future generations from destruction at the hands of a few. We publicly announce our resolution to fulfil our constitutional duty to safeguard our environment and shall not allow its destruction at any costs

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