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   Friday, February 22, 2019
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The clamour to re-open the mines
By Carmen Miranda

Widespread mining in Goa has not only devastated the state's ecology but also resulted in grave human rights violations of thousands of residents. The economic security of few cannot justify the destruction of environment, livelihoods and health of the majority of people.

It is understandable that the people dependent on mining should clamour incessantly to re-open the mines, as they don’t know any better. Mining, they insist, is their only source of livelihood and they don’t even seem interested in considering alternatives.

It is not surprising that politicians joined the dissonant choir and clamour even louder, as their political parties receive generous donations from the miners, which makes them too mining-dependent.

But the politicians should know better. Raising the hopes of people by giving baseless assurances that the mines will re-open shortly is unwise and short sighted. The mines have been closed for a very good reason and it is not the whims and wishes of the pro-mining lobby that will re-open the mines.

Any serious politician that truly cares for Goa and Goans, would use this unprecedented opportunity to ensure the mines remain closed and work towards bringing new sustainable and green industries to Goa. A politician with vision would promote a new range of alternative livelihoods to mining, and provide the necessary skills and establish the necessary conditions to attract new modern and sustainable industries that are compatible with the state’s fragile eco-system.

Frankly “pussyfooting” around the mine owners, because they contribute to Goa’s economy is pathetic. Contributing to Goa’s state revenue is the least they can do, given the astronomical profits made on zero investment, and devastation their business causes in Goa. Being subservient to cheats is unacceptable. The Chief Minister knows that the cost of the collateral damage created by mining is much bigger than their contribution to Goa’s coffers, as he clearly admitted on a recent TV interview. So why continue to protect and beat around the bush when it comes to take drastic measures to curb mining in Goa?

A politician with vision would promote a new range of alternative livelihoods to mining, and provide the necessary skills and establish the necessary conditions to attract new modern and sustainable industries that are compatible with the state’s fragile eco-system.

Instead of wasting time in nominating committees to investigate the Shah Commission findings, it would have been more useful to order a survey on the real situation and numbers of the directly and indirectly mining-dependent people – who are these people and how many there are in reality, what exactly are they doing, what skills do they have and how can those skills be transferable to different and modern industries, what are the alternative livelihoods that can be immediately started and promoted?

Paddy destroyed this year by mining silt near Bicholim, Goa.
(Photo by Ramesh Gauns)

Good governance requires a minimum of basic statistics and information for an informed assessment and planning. The huge numbers of the so called mining-dependent people in Goa are figments of journalists and politician’s fertile imaginations. Mysteriously “lakhs of people will lose their jobs” when even the official figures given by the miners are barely 75,000 while estimates of independent researchers assure that there are hardly 23,000. The fact that mining offers mainly seasonal work, it is not regulated and comes with a baggage of serious consequences for the people and the environment, seems to escape the pro-mining lobby and the government.

Mining in Goa has to be seen from perspectives beyond revenue and jobs as these can be sourced in more sustainable ways.

Mining needs to be dealt with up front and quickly, instead of procrastinating by appointing committees upon committees to go around in circles probing each other’s findings to avoid useful action.

The grand scale of negative impact of strip mining and catastrophic consequences has to be part of the equation when decisions are taken about the future of mining in Goa.

The truth about the short-term nature of this industry needs to be disseminated in the mining belt, so that the reality sinks in and preparations begin for a future without mining.

Mining in Goa has to be seen from perspectives beyond revenue and jobs as these can be sourced in more sustainable ways.

Consider the following:

Size of Goa- 0.01% of India’s land mass, 19% of Goa’s territory is under mining concessions, dug out or about to be dug out. The fact that Goa alone produces nearly 50% of India’s iron ore for export is disproportionate and unsustainable.

Human Rights- The impact of large scale strip mining on people's lives, health, livelihoods, agricultural land, fisheries, water resources, eco-systems and so on, are a breech of human rights. The livelihoods of a minority of people who insist on working in the mining industry cannot justify the destruction of environment, livelihoods and suffering of the majority of people.

Climate Change- As impact of climate change affect access to water and food production, these are times to ensure food and water security and for the protection of nature’s mechanisms that provide long-term security - our lush forested hills and bio-diversity. These are not times to sacrifice sustainability for short-term profits for a minority.

Goa's government must take measures required to phase out mining and the vision to bring in new industries, technologies and business ideas to provide livelihoods that are more in tune with the aspirations of Goa's future generations and the protection of the environment.

The views expressed above are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of d-sector editorial team.

Carmen Miranda  |  carmitamiranda@gmail.com

Carmen Miranda is a renowned environmentalist. She is based in London and actively involved in Save Western Ghats movement. Her crusade against mining in Goa is well known.

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