MOPA - a FUTURE SHOCK FOR PERNEM ! I was about to sit down and write a piece on the MOPA Environment Impact Assessment , when I came across this article by Nadnkumar M. Kamat. Never mind about future shocks, I was immediately and instantly shocked ! Do I have something to add to these 2 opinion pieces ? Yes I do, and I will, as a common person with different point of view - shall I say a womans perspective. MOGICA – Coming Future Shock For Pernem – I Posted by: Navhind Times January 19, 2015 in Opinion MOPA Greenfield International Civil Airport (MOGICA) will be first such airport in the world to be built on one of world’s richest high-grade bauxite ore deposit and one of world’s richest ancient tropical sub-coastal groundwater aquifer. The project would engulf 919 hectares or 2271 acres or an area bigger than the capital city of Goa – Panaji. It is a dream project of Ramakant Khalap, Laxmikant Parsekar, Manohar Parrikar and Rajendra Arlekar besides countless other heavyweight politicians. All of them seem to favour a ‘one shot, one pot’ business model of MOGICA to put development of Pernem as defined by them in a virtual hyper drive. Mopa, a Topographic Oddity The main core site of the project, Mopa plateau, an 90 million-year-old topographic oddity is not an ordinary plateau – geologically, physiographically, geochemically, hydrogeologically, ecologically or biologically. The plateau, with a mean altitude of 165 metres from mean sea level (MSL), is one of the highest in Goa. Central government had identified Mopa plateau as one of the richest source of aluminiferous bauxite. It is estimated that 360 million metric tonne of Mopa bauxite (spread over 800 hectares at a feasible mining depth upto 15 metres and a density of 3000 kg per cubic metre with appreciable content of Titanium, Chromium, Vanadium and saprolitic Gold, not to speak of highly-valued Gallium desired by China, South Korea and Japan) would fetch 14-18000 million dollars in Chinese import market at the prevailing FOB rates fluctuating between $ 46-60 per MT for Indian bauxite. MOGICA would cost 500 million dollars. Besides if we focus on just one element – Gallium besides Aluminium in bauxite, behind every metric tonne of aluminous laterite Goa loses a recoverable quantity of 60 grams of Gallium valued at Rs 1,000. The potential value of exploitable bauxite ore, at least presumptively, is 30-36 times higher than funds required to be invested for construction of MOGICA. This doesn’t make any economic sense considering stiff opposition in the past to permit bauxite mining at Mopa and claims made by interested miners that if the high grade ore is not excavated then it would be permanently lost. Now mining would take place in another form in the name of MOGICA construction. This is not to justify the environmentally damaging impact of ravaging the plateau which is a rich ancient, geochemically pure groundwater aquifer and a tall natural umbrella, a flat watershed catching up 2400 million litres of rainwater discharged rapidly through 30 deep richly vegetated evergreen and steep canyons and structural valleys overlooking the edge of the plateau. So what happens when asphalted tarmac of the airport and the concretized, paved surface, blocks the natural percolation of such massive amount of rainwater? Without even looking at prospects of technology of rainwater harvesting, MOGICA’s feasibility is justified by pointing to Tilari irrigation project. Notionally it is correct to do that but the impact on downstream beneficiaries – the farmers and the drinking water projects are not accounted. Whereas economic geologists would view the negative tradeoff between loss of exploitable high grade bauxite and construction of airport involving a lot of cut and fill activity as a foolish business model, the hydro-geologists might be perplexed by lack of application of mind in commissioning a network of perfectly feasible rainwater harvesting projects to fully meet the needs of MOGICA. The first logical question that people of Pernem including former Union law minister Ramakant Khalap, who was in forefront to oppose Mopa bauxite mining should ask – is the fate of the rich Mopa bauxite deposit which would be encountered as the excavation for MOGICA begins. When you dig at Mopa, it’s not like digging anywhere else. It’s actually a pure bauxite mining activity. So the uncomfortable question is – would the government permit clandestine illegal bauxite mining, on or offsite storage, transportation and export of the excavated material without any audit and auction? Why the state of Goa heavily burdened by increasing public debt should lose recoverable bauxite ore when spades hit Mopa plateau for MOGICA? The bauxite mining dimension needs deeper investigation because it would be ultimately a permanent loss for the people of Pernem. In democracy irrespective of nature and magnitude of PPP projects, the public interests take precedence over the private interests. So would it be sensible to turn a blind eye to millions of tonnes of bauxite ore to be excavated during the MOGICA construction phase? Would it be recorded, stored, auctioned and the funds used as local stakeholders equity in MOGICA project, a perfect ‘win win’ situation for people, government and the private investors? Earlier during 70s, despite warning from Administrative Staff College, Hyderabad, government of Goa had gone ahead with construction of Selaulim dam and reservoir without recovering six million metric tonne of high grade Iron ore which now lies permanently submerged. Fifteen years ago when my student Pradip Sarmokadam, a resident of Alorna, Pernem and a geology graduate undertaking a course in environmental pollution control technology had done a rapid Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study of the Mopa international airport site over a period of ten months, the complex dimensions of the project and its’ future impacts had come to our notice. Premature Elation Predominantly agrarian Pernem is prematurely elated at the prospects of Rs 3,000 crore investment without having any inkling of the coming future shocks after the full commissioning of MOGICA. Basically the political mindset in Pernem taluka is remarkably convergent in support of MOGICA meaning the supporters are reconciled to the idea of accepting their post MOGICA economic and ecological destiny, massive change in land use, demography, migration, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation of northeastern Pernem taluka. February 1 would be second ‘Opinion poll’ day for Goa because a historic public hearing would take place on Goa’s largest civilian project after liberation – in terms of magnitude, cost, area and future shocks. The Election Commission should have asked the government to postpone the public hearing in view of model code of conduct till February 16. Because such major public hearing with thousands in attendance has the potential to influence voters in Panaji by-election. (to be continued). MOGICA – Coming Future Shock For Pernem – II Posted by: Navhind Times January 26, 2015 in Opinion By Nandkumar M Kamat PRESS didn’t take much notice of a small ceremony which was performed by a few villagers on January 23 at a special memorial on Bhutkhamb plateau at Keri, Ponda, the original site of controversial Nylon 6, 6 plant to pay tributes to the victim of police firing, a local youth Neelesh Naik. This unforgettable, blood chilling people-police violent mob conflict took place twenty years ago. Politicians and Police surviving from that day still shiver when they recall January 23, 1995. Half a dozen books have been published on this agitation but the urban-centric environmental discourse having luxury to fantasise about a remote tiger sanctuary has not taken any lessons. The first lesson is – while well-funded and well-salaried ecologists and environmentalists play it safe and secure in almost every movement, finally ordinary, innocent people, who trust them, are likely to end in prison, chase court cases or lose their lives. The promoters of the project Thapar Du Pont Ltd who were declared “Unwanted Guests”, finally left Goa and built the plant at Gummidipoondi, 45 km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu in December 1997. So what were the final achievements of the anti Nylon 6, 6 agitation – about ninety hectares of land under GIDC is now lying unutilised and is caught in a legal dispute. Many projects from a film city to food processing park, an artisan’s city, an educational estate et al were promised but never materialised. Without consulting local stakeholders, land was allotted for SEZ of an Indian pharma company. After the U-turn made by the previous government on SEZ the matter of re-possession of the allotted land is now sub-judice. Nothing changed in Goa after anti Nylon 6, 6 movement as people never agitated for a sustainable development model. The equation on final fate of MOGICA is very simple. Unless the matter ends up in a court in form of a PIL – its’ for the immediate local stakeholders, the people of Pernem to take a call and give their verdict, make a well-informed or ill-informed choice on February 1. It was same case in anti Nylon 6, 6 agitation. Local people and the village panchayat were opposed to the project. Those who vehemently support MOGICA need to be prepared to accept all negative externalities and all short-term and long-term consequences. It appears that MOGICA supporters are comfortable with tourism model in coastal Pernem. Those who are convinced in their opposition to MOGICA, especially those who have lost their ancestral lands should remain steadfast like anti Nylon 6, 6 activists and not waver in their convictions. They need to follow peaceful, legal and legitimate, non-violent means to get justice. The state and the political parties should respect genuine local dissent and not attempt to bulldoze or suppress it. There is none to represent the hundred-plus families of traditional pastoralists, the Gouly-Dhangars tribals settled on Mopa plateau. They have no other place to shift and know no other occupation except herding cattle to make a living. Their plight would soon become an international human interest story as machinery moves to evict them ruthlessly. Pernem experienced Portuguese rule only for two centuries. It always stood for merger with Maharashtra. It supports demand to make Marathi an official language. It fully backed Konkan railway project despite sacrifices of land and other assets. So, all those outside Pernem opposing MOGICA need to face the bitter and biting truth that there is a huge chasm dividing Goa’s old and new conquest talukas in terms of geo and ecological history, culture, political and social history, natural resources, demography, occupational structure, affluence and employment. Pernem is still backward being dependent on agro-horticulture, a little of animal husbandry, toddy tapping and fisheries. Again within this taluka there are critical and visible developmental differences with coastal and sub-coastal belt having tested prosperity on account of beach tourism in past two decades. The hinterland, which can be identified with full Pernem assembly constituency, is still struggling to make both ends meet. There is huge amount of surplus capital owned by Goans in affluent talukas like Salcete, Mormugao, Tiswadi and Bardez. So those who are opposed in these wealthy talukas to MOGICA should have come forward to invest at least Rs 3-5,000 crores to rescue the unfortunate people of Pernem constituency. Is this impossible? Panaji based industrialist, Vilas Bhangi went all the way to Dhargal to establish a large cold storage facility and create eco-friendly, sustainable job opportunities for local people. He is contributing handsomely to control wastage and ensure food security of the country. The outcome of mandatory statutory public hearing on EIA of MOGICA to be held on the site of the project on February 1 appears to be a foregone conclusion because it’s likely to be converted into a massive show of strength, a sort of “an impromptu opinion poll”. The new district collector, a dynamic young woman member of IAS, as the chairman of the committee to hear peoples’ objections and suggestions, fears and concerns on EIA would find it extremely difficult to manage a crowd estimated to cross five thousands. A participation form should have been made mandatory to select and admit only genuine participants. Otherwise the voices of dissenters in small numbers are likely to be drowned as it used to happen during the farcical public hearings conducted in the past to permit mining projects in South Goa. The chairman should know that the outcome of public hearing may completely transform the face of Pernem taluka and North Goa irreversibly. The simple, wise, mature and peace-loving people of Pernem have a tryst with their destiny on February 1. They must co-operate in a disciplined manner with the chairman of the public hearing proceedings North Goa Collector Neela Mohanan to maintain dignity, decorum and sanctity of the public hearing process because my fear is that February 1 is still likely to leave a very bad taste in the mouth of people of Goa due to a naïve approach of the state inexperienced to handle such sensitive and explosive issues. (to be concluded).
Posted on: Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:51:34 +0000
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