Mining dump seen among greenery in Sanguem. (Glenn Costa)
PANAJI: Mining dumps in the vicinity of the Selaulim dam reservoir are not properly covered, and are clearly visible from a distance as being uncovered. The dumps do not have proper embankments to stop run-offs flowing down, especially during rains.
They are visible as enormous moulds of mud contrasting starkly with the greenery around.
After the issue of high levels of manganese in the waters of the Selaulim reservoir was highlighted by the media and raised in the state Assembly, a meeting was held involving departments having a stake in the Selaulim project. A joint inspection of eight mines within the catchment area was also held.
But after that there was no follow up, sources claim. Surprisingly, the Chief Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar in a written reply in the Assembly, said that “it is not proved that the manganese content in the Selaulim reservoir has increased due to mining activities.”
A report by the Goa State Pollution Control Board also says that as of now the manganese levels are within permissible limits, sources say. However, alarmingly the spike in manganese levels is noticed usually by the end of June and beginning of July which is a regular feature. And the cost for the increased use of materials like lime or alum is met by the government from public funds to provide water from Selaulim to South Goa. During this time the water treatment plant uses 1,200 kg of lime, instead of the usual amount of 700 kg lime for water purification. The filter bed of the water treatment plant was also washed repeatedly since past few days, at public cost.
“There was an increase in the manganese levels according to our report during the 15-day period,” PWD in-charge of the Selaulim water purification plant, Mr S Paranjpee says, hastening to add that manganese content is under control and is now within permissible limits.
The Selaulim project began in 1989 and in 1991 itself the National Environment Research Institute was appointed to prepare a report. The report had given suggestions on how to treat the water.
The problem of this rise in manganese is not new, claim officials adding it has always been there in this period of 15 days.
PWD officials also say that the department is preparing an internal report on how to control this sudden spike during this period and checking is going on to monitor the levels of iron and manganese on an hourly basis.
It may be recalled that in 2009 the opposition had demanded that the government immediately close mines in the vicinity of the Selaulim dam. Calling the dam as the “water bowl” of South Goa, the then leader of opposition, Mr Manohar Parrikar had warned that if the iron content in the water went higher, it could cause kidney ailments among consumers.
Meanwhile, three residents of Colomba-Sanguem, have alleged that a few mining companies are emptying their overflowing pits into the dam increasing the manganese content in the water.
Even though mining activity has been suspended, release of water from overflowing pits continues for safety reasons. The three have named seven mining leases in the complaint filed under Section 277 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), alleging polluting a source of public water supply at the cost of public health. However, the case has not been registered.