• The Claremont mystery

    A land deal, much whispered about, is allegedly by UK-based Claremont Group. Nobody knows too much about it. But UK papers in February reported: "Birmingham-based Claremont Group has launched a

  • Coasting on unclarity

    Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification 1991: The CRZ area is defined as coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers, backwaters, all influenced by tidal action (in the landward side). The CRZ area is up to 500 metres from the high tide line and the land between the low tide line and high tide line.

  • Goa regional plan has public up in arms

    Goa regional plan has public up in arms

    After a delay of over six years, Goa has a 400-page blueprint for development. But the Goa Final Regional Plan 2011 has environmental groups, urban planners and the public up in arms. They want it to

  • Chicalim villagers in Goa have their say, their way

    on november 26, 2006, nearly 1,000 villagers of Chicalim, a village on the banks of the Zuari river in Goa, gathered for an unprecedented third gram sabha to vote against the Bharati Shipyard

  • Witness to opposition

    Every chair of the community hall of the Shree Shantadurga temple in South Goa

  • People say no to Food Park, mining at Quitol

    Demanding that the proposed Food Park at Quitol should be scrapped with immediate effect, residents of Betul-Naquerim have resolved that the government should de-notify the proposal to acquire the land for the Food Park and withdraw its notification.

  • New Ponda council chief takes stock of city hygiene

    Newly elected Ponda Municipal Council (PMC) Chairman Sanjay Naik on Monday convened a meeting with municipal and health officials, to discuss the ways to stop dumping of garbage and sewage water into the gutters in the town. The Ponda Municipal Council chairman asked Dr Keshav Priolkar to take appropriate measure to stop the dumping of garbage and sewage water into the gutters. "The gutters have been constructed to channelise rainwater and it is not meant for garbage and sewage water,' said Sanjay Naik.

  • Environmental farce (editorial)

    Given how environmental degradation and rehabilitation of displaced people have become so important, you would think that governments at the centre and in the states would be serious about dealing with these complex issues, deliberating at length about environment clearances and the rehabilitation packages relating to various projects. Yet, the evidence available suggests that the process is as casual and routine-driven as it can be.

  • Witness to opposition (Editorial)

    Every chair of the community hall of the Shree Shantadurga temple in South Goa's Quepem taluka was taken. In a few minutes, the public hearing for Shakti bauxite mines was to begin. Then there arose a whisper: the temple had objected to the hearing being held in their premises; it was being called off. It was the second time the hearing was convened and this time, too, the villagers told us, the 30-day notice rule had been violated. The panchayats were informed just two days ago that people should state their objections, if any, to the expansion plan of the bauxite mine-an increase in production from 0.1 million tonnes per year to 1 million tonnes, requiring an increase in mining area from 26 ha to 826 ha-in this forest- paddy region of Goa's hinterland. From the open window I could see a large police battalion gathering. The whisper grew to a shout. Hefty transporters- owners of trucks to carry the bauxite-were shouting the expansion must be cleared. Within minutes, villagers responded. The voices became more strident; both sides were close to a fight. Things settled only when the local MLA insisted with district officials that the hearing be held as scheduled. The hearing began. The company was requested to explain its project-a Powerpoint presentation in English was simultaneously translated into Konkani. A lot of fluff and technical verbiage followed: the geology of the region; the drilling techniques to be used; how bauxite was critical to the country's development; how all clearances had been granted for extension of the mining lease; and how the company would ensure that environmental damage was mitigated at all costs. Listening to the presentation, everything seemed taken care of. The company would stabilize waste dumps by planting trees, backfilling the pits so that rejects were minimized; it would not breach the groundwater table and, to top it all, it would set aside money for environmental management. But this was before the residents- from politicians to villagers to church representatives-got up to speak. They ripped through the environmental impact assessment report prepared by an unknown consultant. They explained the company had got the number of people living in the area, and even the existing land use, completely wrong. The company claimed most of the land it would mine was 'wasteland'. This, people explained, was a lie because the company was eyeing communidade land (common land) they intensively used for agriculture or grazing livestock. Thus, mining here would massively harm them, a fact completely neglected in the environmental impact assessment. As speaker after speaker rose, it became awfully clear that even though the mine was coming up in the backyard of these people, the statutory environmental impact assessment could simply gloss over what would happen to people's land, forests, water or livelihood. I then checked the report. There was not even a map that identified for me habitations or agricultural fields. The report said, rather glibly, there were no surface waterbodies in the vicinity of the project. It then concluded the project's use of water, for spraying on roads and pits, would have no impact on availability for people. The river Sal, some distance away, was discussed for environmental impacts; even the Arabian Sea. But the numerous village streams, which flow from the hills and irrigate the fields found no mention. At the hearing, villagers counted the streams. The area used to be extremely water- scarce. But the government spent substantial money under the national watershed programme to build check dams, plant trees and increase water recharge. As a result there was now enough water for good harvests. Villagers wanted to know why the same government, which had first invested in improving their water security, was now hell-bent on pushing an activity that would destroy their lives. I wasn't surprising when all those gathered agreed unanimously that the mines must not be allowed under any circumstance. The people said the regulatory clearances-the mine closure plan, the mine management plan-were worthless or even fraudulent. The company, already mining in the area on much smaller land, had flouted every existing condition, broken every trust. Life, they said, was already a living hell because of this small mine; what would happen if it expanded? More land taken, more streams destroyed, more rejects piled high for rains to turn into silt? The questions we must ask are: how could the regulatory institutions even consider giving clearances for an expanded mine area without first checking the company's compliance record? Does this not speak of the weak and non-existent capacities of our regulators to manage the mines so that local or regional environmental damage is minimized? Does this not suggest that people who live in these areas are doomed, because once clearance is given there is nobody to check if the stipulated conditions are met? Should I be surprised I was witness to complete opposition by people to the project? What next? My colleague Chandra Bhushan tells me the rest is fairly predictable. The minutes of this public hearing will be sent to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Its expert committee will deliberate, or sit, on the matter for a few months (as it is controversial). Then it will call the company to explain how it will take into account the issues raised by the people. An improved Powerpoint presentation will be made by another consultant; more deliberations will follow; new conditions will be laid down. With these conditions the expanded mine will be cleared, people's opposition be damned. I hope he is wrong. Let's track this one. The future might be different. Writer is Director, Centre for Science and Environment

  • Parrikar will be responsible for epidemic: GPCC chief

    GPCC President Francisco Sardinha has warned that BJP leader Manohar Parrikar will be solely responsible if any epidemic or disease spreads in the Capital city due to non-lifting of garbage on account of the ongoing strike by Corporation workers. Holding Parrikar responsible for the messy situation in Panjim, Sardinha reminded that the Corporation workers are led by Keshav Prabhu, who is a top functionary of the BJP. "If Parrikar has the will, he could have easily convinced Prabhu not to stop collecting garbage from the city', Sardinha said, adding "I am sure, the mess is being created at the instigation of Parrikar, who represents Panjim city'. The GPCC President warned Parrikar in the name of the citizens of Panjim and Goans in general, that he would be solely held responsible if the situation affects the tourism industry and an epidemic breaks out in the city. Sardinha hoped that better sense will prevail on Parrikar and requests Keshav to ask the workers to report for work and clean up the city, by keeping aside all political differences.

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