Detractors of exponential mining

Moratorium on mining needs to be enforced, not the CM’s mineral policy, says Hartman de Souza
While the Expert Panel appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to look into the status of the Western Ghats at its day long meeting at the NIO on 27 September, there is every likelihood that its critique of mining will be diluted, if not waylaid.
At the outset, it must be said that the possibility of this bleak outcome must be set against the major gain of this day, which was that very competent Goa-based scientists, architects, writers, scholars and several citizens’ groups formed a consortium of common interest. In a 100-minute presentation, that drew the expected frowns from those in the mining industry, they set before the Expert Panel, perhaps, for the first time in Goa, the most comprehensive and damning of cases against the mining industry.
At least one of the panel members, a distinguished agricultural scientist, maintained that there should be a total moratorium on mining activities echoing Goan claims that a detailed social audit of the mining industry be the need of the day, and not the Chief Minister’s new Mineral Policy that the world and its mother knows was drafted to ensure the mining continues unabated. Lest it be forgotten citizens’ groups have been long clamouring that the extensive damage in earlier mining operations be repaired, before any new activities are even contemplated. Will this be the case? That’s the moot point.
Professor Madhav Gadgil, an eminent scientist, with the reputation to back him, while chairing proceedings admirably, appeared less than willing to disclose his cards. He began the morning with a regurgitation of his past achievements in negotiating the terrain between the environment and that magical word, ‘development’. Judging by his own track record in this regard, the Konkan Railway Corporation, by his own admission, totally disregarded the changes he had painstakingly suggested being that they did not have the most potent advocate for our magnificent Ghats.
While the morning session provided fact and figure by way of enlarged Google-generated maps, an exhibition of mining-devastated areas, elaborately marshalled writing, and impassioned argument, the afternoon, alas, was given to spin-doctoring, with the mining industry blissfully ignoring figures and statistics given in the critiqued Regional Plan, and imagination.
In the afternoon, Professor Gadgil, before he left for a meeting with the Chief Minister took pains to tell all concerned of the effects of mining, to tone the rhetoric and give suggestions to improve the industry. One trusts he got an understanding of the only suggestion really made, viz. that a moratorium be enforced and earlier leased granted under false circumstances, be revoked.
Whether this destructive industry will be caught out or not, the scene perforce shifts to whether the Expert Panel, given their eminence and standing, are inclined to see the trees and water before the Goan and Indian governments see the low grade ore beneath. Too many intellectuals in Goa are now disturbed with the regularity that some scientists and well known environmentalists have shifted their allegiance to the mining industry, taking on board the myth that mining is the backbone of the Goan economy, and then, rationalising this outrage that would that would make even a Middle Age monk blush with shame.
On the very day the Panel met, for instance, Professor Nandkumar Kamat, better known for his painstaking research on the River Sal, chose to give us his opinions in an article titled ‘Geo-Economic Politics of Western Ghats’, or as the blurb told us: “The natural resources rich Western Ghats of India is the new strategic playground for global economic and political interests, especially the members of NATO”.
Professor Kamat’s article needs to be read by as many people as possible to see just how dangerous and deceptive matters can be if obfuscation is put to the service of destructive business. At least one of his paragraphs must be quoted in full. Dwelling on the nexus between MNCs and NATO countries, for example, he writes: “They encourage their governments to pump in money in Western Ghat states to create a social playground favourable to their future corporate plans and selectively target their potential detractors. To supplement and complement these plans, evangelical forces like Canada’s United Council of Churches also have their NGO collaborators in India who liberally sponsor anti-mining activism in states like Goa in a non-Christian mining belt”!!! In a country such as ours, armed with a unique constitution, such an charge appears to move from frivolousness to downright communalism.
But not for Professor Kamat the subtle changes that occur between fact, argument and indeed, ideology. His feats of extrapolation include moving in time and space from a Canadian report on Latin America and the Caribbean and implications to human rights practices there, to his state of Goa. In what can only be referred to as the unkindest cut of all, Professor Kamat savages well-known and much respected Durgesh Kasbekar (without the courtesy of naming him), known to all environmentalists as the person single handedly responsible for the declaration of Mhadei and Neturlim sanctuaries during President’s rule in Goa. Somewhat foolishly, he accuses Durgesh Kasbekar, now a resident of Canada, of selling out to fictitious Canadian interests. Given Professor Kamat’s various about turns and his sudden switch of loyalties to the Mineral Foundation of Goa (for which he was forced to resign from the Expert Panel set up by the MoEF to study the Western Ghats), he is the last person on earth who should point a finger.
Many are also disturbed with the apparent pride that Professor Gadgil announced to the meeting that he and economist Dr Ligia Noronha, one of two Goans on the panel, had accepted the Chief Minister’s offer to be on the committee of the government’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations. There are just too many who will tell you that these celebrations, will be trotted out to detract attention from the real problems at hand. These are, if one does not already know rampant governmental corruption from peon to minister, the rampant infrastructure industry that hides in the guise of mega building projects and/or tourism, and the exponential mining that’s destroying Goa’s forests and fresh water sources, and sullying at least five major rivers, including the Mandovi and Zuari. Which you put first in order of priority doesn’t really matter, because they are


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