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article imageNuem village in Goa stops re-starting of mining operations Special

By Armstrong Vaz     Aug 10, 2009 in Environment
Nuem, which is 25 kms from Margao City, between Kanaguinim and Cabo-de-Rama, on the west coast of Goa, is an example of nature’s generosity.
The locals were gratefully and graciously absorbing its radiance and soaking in its beauty and majesty, till in March of 2008, when some people with vested interest suddenly transgressed the sanctity of this serene village. And it’s amazing, at what the villagers have achieved thus far. Nuem is the only village in Goa that has successfully managed to stop restarting of mining activities. The village were successful only because the whole village was involved, united as one unit, says Freddy Agnelo Fernandes, resident of Nuem village in India.
To the south side of the village laid a mine operated by Dempo company, but that was shut down in the latter part of the 1960’s, since then the mine had been abandoned and no activities were carried on. Adjacent to this mine were fields owned by the villagers. Since the mining operations ceased in the late 60’s, all the leftover mining ore reject lay scattered or stacked all over the area and has been there since then. Dempo did not renew the mining lease, thereafter, and as per the mining laws, the lease stood cancelled and hence no one had the right to restart mining operations in that area, nor transport the leftover ore or the rejects.
With the demand for ore having increased, the people with vested interests thought of feathering their own nests by making hay while the sun shines, by selling the ore along with the rejects and restart mining activities, illegally, by oiling the palms of a few officials and of course the police as well.
During the mining operations before liberation from Portuguese, the ore was transported via sea route on barges through the dockyard. The yard still stands in testimony of that, there was no road excess from the southern side of the village, people walked through fields to proceed to Cabo-de-Rama and other neighboring parts of Khola village, most of the tippers on site were transported by sea and a few where brought through the rough terrain on the northern side of the village and drove over the ramps on either side of the small beach which still stand in testimony during low tide.
Now with the conveyor no more and the ore reservoir inaccessible, sea transport is out of question, so the culprits forcefully tried to make a motor-able road through people’s fields and cut down a few trees, without the knowledge of the people. People objected, led by the Roman Catholic priests Father Henry and Father Saluzinho who took up the gauntlet and in unity stood before the earth moving machinery and a couple of battalions of police force, in solidarity and stopped them in their tracks. This happened in May 2008 and with overwhelming unity and support, excess to the site was blocked. During this time some of our overseas villagers made unscheduled trips to Goa to support the cause of our village.
“We had to face a number of situations wherein people of the village had to stand in solidarity and block the excess of the transgressors to the site and I am proud to say we did it successfully on every occasion,” says Freddy.
The culprits then took the matter to court stating the fields and the property through which the road was to be made was communidade land, though the same people were involved in the land sale scam of communidade land at Cabo-de-Rama (plateau) to a five star consortium.
People were harassed and intimidated by the ruff-necks of the culprits but they all stood united, when they were called to the Police Station on a number of occasions but did not bend and whenever they (people) were called, be it the police station, Collector’s office or the Court, the whole village moved as one unit and that was the forte, bus loads of people everywhere they went, plus all the private vehicles.
“We approached all the possible authorities with the help of an NGO and placed our problems and our demands before them, it was then that the Mining Authority banned mining in the area and sealed the mine with a warning that trespassers would be prosecuted, since then, there has been an odd visitor to the site, and believe me, every visitor, be it official or otherwise is certainly confronted and taken to task by the villagers, who are very vigilant and suspicious of any movement in that area. Till today at the ringing of the Chapel bell, you’ll find the whole village ready to run to the mine site in seconds, leaving behind all ongoing chores, be it 90-year olds or mothers with babies in arms,” says Freddy.
“The Mining Authority has sealed the mine saying it’s totally illegal to start any mining activity on that particular site, but still the saga continues, we will not let go and we will not disintegrate but stand firm and united in our resolve. We have formed a Nuem Welfare Fund initiated by one of our NRG’s which takes care of all the expenses, we are not all that well to do people, but we have contributed willingly and generously to save our village, “ he adds.
If Nuem as a small village can do it why can’t the rest of Goa ? It is only unity and the will of the people that can get us to, where we want to go. Nuemkars Jai Ho ! (Long live Nuemkars)
More about Goa, Mining, Iron ore exports, Low quality ore, Expsorts from india
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