Author: Hartman de Souza Art: Jessica Schnabel Content Courtesy: Himal Southasian
Where there is water, there is probably ore beneath.
Having trekked several times to Paikdev’s spring to gulp water pouring out of the moss-covered iron mouth, one would think the mysteries of the journey would fade. But, if anything, they have become more poignant – sitting here at this shrine to the snake deity of the Velip community in the village of Maina, in Goa’s Quepem District. It is here, amidst thousands of hectares of rolling forests, in the foothills of the Western Ghats, home to countless perennial springs and streams, wildlife and more, that a strange conglomeration of mining companies, politicians and real-estate developers are sharpening their collective sword. These activities were already afoot a year ago, with mining operations systematically destroying forests, because, as the government in Panjim stated at the time, the iron ore was needed by New Delhi to keep its nine-percent growth rate on track. This year, the message is no different.
As any mining engineer will tell you, the most significant obstacle to making profit is water. The deeper into the earth a mining operation burrows, the more aquifers it will burst and the more water it will draw from the surrounding sides. This water prevents the miners from getting to the ore, which is why significant work goes into diverting these flows. The water goes where it can – or, for reasons only a deity such as Paik would know, simply disappears. The monsoons, succour to Goa, are seen as a curse by miners, because even more water gathers in the pits. Come September, this water too is pumped out, but stained with the dirty blood of mining. Surrounding fields, naturally, die from the poisoning. The pits go as deep as the mining company wants; in Shirigao, not far from the mining town of Bicholim, the pit goes 30 metres below sea level. No shaman is needed to understand why every well in the adjacent village has today run dry.
Read the full article on the Himal Southasian website.