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Green Sense in a Land Run Red

Goa Sweet Land of Mine Goa Foundation

BOOK REVIEWEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 8, 200839up “opportunities to undermine estab-lished structures of power”, but also draw “marginalised young people more tightly into structures and ideologies of dominance” (p 210).ConclusionsThis study is particularly significant in the context of the spread of private educational institutions across small and medium towns and rural areas, creating new op-portunities for many but also exclusion and failure for others. Higher education and formal sector employment are widely regarded as essential elements of middle class status, and the “new middle classes” of provincial towns as well as many poor and low status families invest heavily in this form of cultural capital for their children, only to have their hopes dashed when the desired jobs prove elusive. This study documents in painful detail the con-sequences of this kind of failure for rural youth when they find that “degrees” do not always lead to “freedom”.Email: carol@nias.iisc.ernet.inGoa Sweet Land of Mine Goa Foundation, Mapusa, Goa, 2008; pp 92, no price mentioned. Green Sense in a Land Run RedRahul GoswamiAlorry load of red earth in Goa has for too long been a cargo beyond question. Ripped out of an earth that is protected by dense forest, the value of this cargo has in the last three years dramatically altered an industry that used to be predictably cyclical. Today, the global demand for metals, minerals and commodities has turned mining into a conspicuously lucrative industry. In 2005, India’s total iron ore exports were valued at $3,860 million (about Rs 18,100 crore at the then exchange rate). Goa’s share of that value was around Rs 6,300 crore which, to help understand scale, compares with the Rs10,951 crore that was Goa’s net state domestic product for 2005-06. Today, Goa’s iron ore miners have em-ployed their new liquidity in two direc-tions: expansions in the same industry sector, and in property development. In doing so they are less impulsive than their counterparts across the high green ridges of the western ghats: the maverick miners of Karnataka’s Bellary and Hospet have substituted their jeeps with helicopters.Responding to what the industry says are its needs, Goa has released what it calls a draft mineral policy. This attempt at describing the state-minerals relation-ship in the first place fails to set out the responsibilities and costs related to a major economic activity. The current Congress chief minister, Digambar Kamat, was after all once a minister of industries and mines. Even so, Goa’s ore miners have not attempted to make any corrections or additions to this policy, and why should they? For two decades, their cause has been helped by the officials and bureau-crats of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) which has, particularly in the eyes of citizens living in mining- affected villages, done everything pos-sible to shear the land of its protective green covering.Direct CulpabilityThroughout Sweet Land of Mine, the de-structive role of theMoEF is reprised. This ministry has aided and abetted the over-turning of every single piece of legislation designed to protect ecological systems and the communities of Goa. It has done so consistently from the mid-1980s when the Portuguese mining “concessions” were converted into leases. The ministry has ig-nored, time and again, every single sub-mission from environmentalists active in Goa, every single objection from the few honest administrators in the state, every study conducted by any independent authority that could harm the interests of the mining industry in Goa. This ministry is directly culpable for a great deal of the damage the small state has suffered during the last 20 years of organised mining. It is a modern and deliberate administrative crime.TheMoEF has approved opencast min-ing within one to three kilometres of Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries. Mining leases have been granted clearances even when inside these sanctuaries – the Cotigao, Netravali, Bhagwan Mahavir and Mhadei sanctuar-ies run from south to north Goa along the western slopes of the spine of the western ghats. They should form a continuous pro-tected corridor for wildlife but the practice in Goa has been wildly at odds with the intention. In 2002 the same MoEF had di-rected all state governments to demarcate a 10 km buffer zone from the boundaries of all wildlife sanctuaries.The Goa Foundation pressed the Supreme Court for enforcement of this direction, and when it did the MoEF withdrew the circular and suggested the state govern-ments examine the issue according to each sanctuary, effectively transferring the burden of decision to local satraps. In Goa, the government set up an interdepartmen-tal committee to demarcate the buffer zone around the six wildlife sanctuaries and one national park. The committee’s generosity to Goa’s environment extended to no more than a one km zone with a res-triction on mining; if forests were present then the buffer zone would be three kms. Even this rickety safeguard has been dis-mantled in favour of the mining industry by the state government – it has recom-mended that three of Goa’s sanctuaries need no buffer zone at all. TheMoEF has encouraged such ecological sabotage while violating the Supreme Court order banning mining in protected areas, which includes all wildlife sanctuaries.For Goa’s village communities that are steadily reorganising themselves to op-pose mining, more struggles are inevita-ble. Between September 6, 2005 and October 24, 2007 environment clearances were given to 73 new mining leases by the MOEF. These lie in panchayats that have either been ripped up or bulldozed aside
BOOK REVIEWnovember 8, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly40already by mining, or which are facing the prospect of new excavation. Villages with names like Sigao, Maulinguem, Santona, Pale, Pissurlem and Costi are being forced deeper into inner Goa’s unforgiving min-ing economy, as always at the cost of agri-culture and the protection of indigenous ecological systems.The 73 new leases have ceded to Goa’s miners another 83 sq km of land. The lease holders include all of Goa’s mining majors, and 13 smaller mining companies, who have nevertheless been able to deploy the investment necessary to work the earth. The major miners correspond – as they have done since the early 1950s – to the widely influential “mining families” of Goa, the small state’s ruling elite who have controlled the trade, controlled the indus-try, orchestrated Goa’s astonishingly venal politics, controlled the local media and who manipulate every single government department that affects their primary business. These companies are: Chowgule, Salgaocar Mining Industries. Sociedade Fomento Inds, Sociedade Timblo Irmaos Limitada, V D Chowgule, V M Salgaocar and V S Dempo.All in the FamilyThe historical big three families of Goa’s iron ore industry have benefited hand-somely from the new tranche of clear-ances. Amongst them, Chowgule has the largest new group of holdings with 1,380 hectares (ha), followed by V S Dempo with 1,131 ha, the Timblo companies have 941 ha and V M Salgaocar has 859 ha. Taken together, the small miners hold new clearances for 2,785 ha. It is however Sesa Goa, India’s largest private sector iron ore miner, which has the biggest new investment deployed: Rs 98 crore. Even so, the total stated investment for all the new mining leases taken together is Rs291 crore, a sum that is no more than a quarter of the annual taxes that the in-dustry in Goa pays to the state and central governments, and it is certainly a single digit percentage of the industry’s annual profit. For an industry that will be nudg-ing Rs 10,000 crore in 2008-09, the return on such capital employed will be unprecedented. Provided, that is, the in-dustry is able to retain – as it has since the early 1950s – its grip on the socio-politics of Goa. It is a grip that is manifest through colleges, medical endowments, cultural foundations and religious donations as much as it is through control of the department of industries and mines and the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There should be much industrial history here specific to the rise and rise of the miners.This book brings balance through a visual presentation of the ugly impact of mining on Goa’s richly green landscapes that shock and stir the reader, yet while its bullet-point expose of the ministry of en-vironment’s methods hits hard, an under-standing of how the iron ore industry has come to dominate modern Goa is missing. While unfortunate, it is unsurprising. One of the continuing handicaps of the volun-tary groups which are opposing mining in Goa is that they have been unable to quan-tify the industry – and its effects – enough to provide a questioning public with adequate information. On this count, Sweet Land of Minedoes not illuminate the reader, preferring a welter of photo-graphs and pithy captions to a studied elu-cidation of why mining in Goa has become so all-consuming. The book’s value would have increased considerably had essential industry data and commentary supple-mented the fragmented, although very useful, material on legislation and those who spurn it.Goa’s many administrations have always endorsed the mining industry by giving it the status of the primary eco-nomic pillar. There is no doubt that from the early 1950s onwards, iron ore mining and its host of attendant industries have reached deep into select village econo-mies. While the keepers of Goa’s books of accounts shy away from telling us just how much, there has not been any serious attempt made by activists in Goa to remedy the gaps in knowledge: only the publicly listed Sesa Goa provides some data from which inferences about the merchant costs of mining (and the sort of profits oligarchs dream of) can be made. The Goa Mining Association and the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association are both publicly silent about the labour foot-print of the ore extraction industry – it is certainly larger than every available esti-mate, with many households depending on the lorry fleets, on the many barges that transport ore down the Mandovi and Zuari rivers to the ports, and on the many activities in the ports that send out over-flowing shiploads of rare red earth. Despite the ubiquity of ore in transit through Goa, the inner workings of the industry that digs out and moves the ma-terial are protected from the public gaze.The Goa Foundation’s legal work has helped lift that curtain. Every village ac-tion group that is blocking a mining road or barricading the entrance to a mine site in protest is also forcing the industry into the open. Today, we know that more than 40 mining leases operate in forested areas of Goa. The estimated area of forests affected due to mining in Goa is about 2,000 ha and there are 26 active leases in forested areas, out of 91 leases granted in such areas. The commentary inSweet Land of Mineobserves:The former colonial Portuguese government handed out over 700 pieces of paper called mining ‘concessions’ to the various individu-als to conduct simple, surface-level, manual operations to extract whatever ores they could find. These ‘concessions’ were granted ‘in perpetuity’. Those concessions have over time turned into gigantic hill-devouring can-kers deep inside the ecologically sensitive 1st Anuradha Ghandy Memorial LectureInternationally acclaimed economist Samir Amin will deliver the 1st Anurdha Ghandy Memorial LectureTopic : ‘Beyond Liberal Capitalism in Crisis: The Socialist Perspective for the 21st Century’Date : Thursday, November 20, 2008Time : 5 p.mVenue : Convocation Hall, Mumbai University, Fort Campus, Mumbai.P A SebastianConvenor, Anuradha Ghandy Memorial Committee, Mumbai

area of the western ghats. In 1987 Parliament passed a special law abolishing the mining concessions of Goa, converting them into mining leases under the control of India’s mineral e xtraction and environment laws. Despite this, the provisions of the Water Pollution Control Act (1974), the Air Pollution Control Act (1981), the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Environment Protection Act (1986) were never i mplemented by any of the authorities when the mines came up for their first p ermissions after the 1987 Act was notified.

Livelihood Rights

Two major scientific studies exist to show that mining substantially destroys the h ydrogeology of Goa, thus leading to the widespread problem of village wells running dry in talukas that are accustomed to soaking up 250 cm of rain every monsoon. Here too, this volume shows how the MoEF consistently ignored the water question, preferring to cite industry-sponsored “studies” which claimed that Goa’s groundwater aquifers were not being harmed. The MoEF has paid no attention, while granting permissions to mining operations, to the loud and voluminous complaints made in recorded public h earings that localised drought and water scarcity were being experienced byillages

v a ffected by mining.

More mining, more ore, more protest and more information have helped the j udiciary deliver more people-friendly

o rders in the last two years. In a judgment that is a welcome precedent for the continuing mines vs communities battle, the Panaji bench of the Mumbai High Court awarded compensation amounting to Rs 3.6 crore to be paid to farmers affected by mining activity for loss of yield in their fields for the period 1993-2004. The m iners were directed to deposit the compensation by August 30, 2007 and thereby to give relief to 761 aggrieved farmers of the village of Surla, in Goa’s Bicholim t aluka, who have lost about 1,090 ha of land under cultivation because of mining silt. In this case, Goa’s main mining f amilies were all penalised: Chowgule, Salgaocar, V M Salgaocar, V S Dempo, Timblo and D B Bandodkar. But how s evere is such a penalty, at Rs 3,940 per farmer per year of ravaged field?

Economic & Political Weekly EPW november 8, 2008

On January 4, 2008, the Supreme Court accepted the recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) that 16 mines in Goa would have to pay compensations together exceeding Rs 100 crore before being allowed to resume work on their leases in forest areas. By the painfully low standards, this was better recompense. The CEC had found that costs imposed on the companies for destruction of forests on their leases were under valued by the MoEF to the advantage of the companies. The CEC also found that temporary working permits to work in forest areas had been granted by the MoEF in blatant disregard of the Supreme Court’s orders, and that these permits needed to be cancelled.

Yet the business imperative is unquenched. From the point of view of mining capital, iron ore remains an attractive sector despite the steep rise in input costs in 2008. The Goa mineral ore extraction and export industry has over 2002-06 seen its revenue grow at an annually compounded rate of 35-40 per cent, earnings (before deductions) grow at 80-90 per cent compounded annually, and post-tax profit margins of 25-35 per cent. For Indian and global mineral resources conglomerates seeking new sectors, raw material integration or metals consolidation, the private sector iron ore operations of western India are undoubtedly attractive. Industry analysts have for the last three years f ocused on the sector’s business p ositives such as “strong price outlook”, “long life resource base and low cost operations”, “debt-free companies with strong cash p ositions”, and an optimism for “additional

BOOK REVIEW

prospecting and mining licences” which indeed have come to pass.

There was a spell in the 1990s when the era of iron ore mining being the most favoured industry in Goa looked to have passed. The China factor has changed that view. Even if the patterns of ore purchasing change, the hyperactivity in the i ndustry of the last four years will alter the business profile of Goa’s merchant mining families. They have in fits and starts attempted diversification, and have often been unsuccessful. Now they hold mining leases elsewhere in India – in Jharkhand, in Chhattisgarh, in Orissa, in neighbouring Maharashtra and K arnataka. They will deploy the efficiencies and a unique knowledge of logistics

– mining is as much about moving material as it is about extracting it – they have learned in Goa. The major miners are a lready planning corporate restructurings, the transfer of resource reserves to holding companies, bringing in private equity to fund new mineral venture and overseas resources.

Goa’s government has signalled its d etermination to safeguard mineral-rich belts in the state for the iron ore industry. Its enthusiastic land use planning machinery is already at work, railroading legislation and incentives through the state a ssembly in favour of the new business a rchitects. Ignored entirely in the headlong rush to corner wealth – mineral- derived, real estate or other speculative – are the livelihood rights of Goa’s indigenous and agricultural communities.

Email: makanaka@pobox.com

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