Villagers from areas around the Kushavati river in Sanguem taluka are complaining of health...
By Glenn Costa | NT
PANAJI: Villagers from areas around the Kushavati river in Sanguem taluka are complaining of health problems like increased incidences of asthma, perennial colds, body ache and are blaming polluted water sources within the villages for the same.
Villagers allege that during the rains water flowing down from the mining dumps carry silt into the Kushavati river and other water bodies like wells as well as fields, and complain that the run-offs destroy their fields and pollute the water bodies. They also allege that mining companies use the ‘divide and rule policy’ to squash any protests.
However, health officials express ignorance about any effects of pollution caused by any flow from the dumps into water bodies.
“Health problems are there but these are general ones that normally happen during monsoons. There is no specific problem because of any pollution or contaminated water,” says Dr Uday Kakode from Sanguem public health centre.
However, he admits that to his knowledge no survey has been carried out to check for any ill effects due to water or air pollution or if any pollutants have entered into the water bodies or the aquatic food chain. There has been no direction given by the government to check about any health problems due to any specific sources or any survey conducted, he added.
A villager, Mr Deu Gaokar, who lives near a reservoir, alleges that villagers suffer from perennial colds. “They have breathing problems and take ill often,” he says adding that health officials have not conducted any survey of the area to check on health problems in the village or have not issued any warning about precautions to be taken.
Blaming mining pollution, he complains, “Our fields are getting affected and carrying out farming activities is difficult in the area. Everywhere there is red muddy water.”
Mr Rama Velip, who has been in the forefront of the fight against excessive and illegal mining for a long time said, “The companies have filed many cases against me,” further arguing that a visit through any of the villages of Sanguem taluka would show high incidences of asthma.
“People are falling sick regularly. The government has not conducted any study to find out if this is because of manganese released due to iron ore pollution,” he argues.
Run-offs from some of the dumps enter directly into the Kushavati – one of the main rivers flowing through Sanguem while other dumps flow into the Selaulim reservoir.
“The run-offs seep into the ground and spoil our fields. When the ore is mined a film of an oil-like substance is formed on the water top,” Mr Velip says, adding “It is difficult to even wash it off. This goes directly into the river and seeps into the ground.”
According to experts this pollution has probably got into the aquatic food chain as well into the agricultural produce with scientists saying that manganese pollution could even lead to Parkinsons.
The Water Resources Department has been looking at use of runoffs to buffer up slopes surrounding water bodies instead of using clay or concrete according to the Goa State Pollution Control Board report tabled in the legislative assembly, but noting has come of it as yet.
“WRD recommends that the mining companies should provide a layer of impermeable mining rejects in between the existing back-filled area and future area proposed for back-filling in lieu of clay stones or concrete sub-surface dyke recommended by NEERI (National Environment Engineering Research Institute),” the report says.
The WRD has been receiving complaints about large-scale pollution of rivers in Sanguem and Quepem taluka due to mining activities, including rejection dumped near Selaulim dam, former water resources minister, Mr Filipe Neri Rodrigues had admitted in 2009 itself.