Mines in Goa destroy local tribal communities’ livelihood, while benefiting a few corporations
Devidas Gaonkar, our correspondent from Goa is a tribal youth whose family earns its livelihood from farming. These days Devidas’s family and the rest of his community members are facing a serious food crisis as their farm output has come down drastically. The reason behind this drop in yield is that effluents from the mines in their area have been washed down to their farms, killing the soil’s nutrients.
There are over a hundred iron ore and bauxite mines in Devidas’s district. These mines are on the hilltops. In monsoon rain water washes down mineral particles from the mines to the farmland below the hills where Devidas’s community grows paddy. This then forms layers of black silt in the paddy field, choking the pores on the soil and cutting the supply of oxygen. As a result, the crops fail and the community faces a season of starvation.
Uncontrolled mining and environmental degradation have been some of the burning issues in Goa for years and Devidas has been leading his community in this fight against the polluting mining companies. He says, “Mines in Goa are controlled by a handful of rich families who make millions of rupees every year. But for people in my community mining only means destruction of livelihood. The crop failure is actually forcing us to quit farming and become laborers in the mines”.
Currently the government is in the process of formulating a new mining policy in Goa that will stop all illegal mining activity and restore the environment. But Devidas says that the policy must also include compensation to all the farmers who have suffered repeated crop failures, and de-silting of the farmland which is the only source of livelihood for his community.