Monday, November 26, 2007

Indian residents to lose homes and livelihoods if mining company has its way

Mining mess in east and west

Kalidas Umarye’s house at Vathadev in Goa’s Bicholim taluka is an ocean of tranquility. But there is tension simmering beneath: Umarye, an agriculturist, might lose his home and livelihood if a mining company has its way.

“How would you feel if the government asks you to leave your property and livelihood because the area is resource-rich?” asks Pramod Umarye, his neighbour.

Land here is being parceled out to mining companies without proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and forest clearance. And, most importantly, against the wishes of the local community.

“The ore you get here is of low grade. But because of demand from China, mining companies are scrambling to get contracts. The Chinese want this ore to blend it with better quality ones,” says journalist Ashwin Tombat.

But Goa’s industrialists are not complaining. In the past six years, the state’s mineral exports have increased 35 per cent to 23 million tonnes last year.

The struggle in Bicholim started in December 2006 when villagers learnt that Panjim-based Zantye and Co Pvt Ltd would be given the lease for mining iron and manganese ore at Sarvona. In January, the Gram Sabha (Sarvona-Karapura panchayat) passed a resolution asking the government not to grant permission. If one goes by the Panchayati Raj Act, this decision should have been enough. But the government called a public hearing — a requirement under the EIA — on January 18.

Residents allege the hearing was faulty because they were not given information on the project 30 days prior to the meeting and the company did not provide any disaster management plan. The second hearing was on March 24, when the residents said they were against the lease because mining would destroy their forests, natural water source and horticulture plantation.

“The company presented false information to get the lease..."

Here is the full article.