People’s Power Prevails in India – Goa’s Pollution issue abstract by Armstrong Vaz

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Goa State Pollution Control Board orders closure of polluting industries

India is on the threshold of an economic boom. No second thoughts on that count. But at what cost? Does industrialization mean that poor villagers have to suffer the ill effects of polluting industries?

Liquid effluents from industries finding their way outside the Cuncolim industrial area compound to a fresh water pond used by cattle.

The Indian state of Goa is not a leader on the industrial front but small pockets of industrialization have been confined to areas far away from the scenic coastline.

One such village in Goa has been successful in forcing the closure of polluting industries in the village of Cuncolim, Goa.

The pollution control board has cracked the whip in declaring the closure of three industries. Sunrise Zinc Ltd., Nicomet Industries Ltd. and Karthik Alloys Ltd. are the three units that face closure.

Solid untreated waste material from industries inside the factory premises and plastic bags strewn all over the area. The waste is then dumped in abandoned brick quarries and uncultivated paddy fields.

Industries play havoc by throwing safety regulations to the wind. Industrial units were disdainfully discharging solid and liquid effluents and polluting the ground water.

The industries were put to the mat when tests confirmed the worst fears of agitating villagers. It is the start of a long drawn-out struggle.

It is just a temporary relief. The polluting industries will be back once the safety regulations are put into place.

A villager from Velim sympathizes with the residents of his neighboring village from a far away land:

A waste drainage pipe empties into an open drain. The open drain in turn connects to rainwater drainage. The drainage water ends in one of the numerous rivulets of Cuncolim.

“Just shutting down the three polluting units in the Cuncolim, Goa Industrial Estate is not good enough. The owners of these units should bear the costs of cleaning up the contamination they have caused or face rigorous imprisonment for life. Such heavy metal and solvent contamination caused birth defects and even death in the case of nearby residents in Silicon Valley [ San Francisco, Calif.] in the ’70s and ’80s due to the contamination caused by companies in the ’60s and ’70s,” says Dr. Carmo D’Cruz, a Goan and IITian now settled in Indian Harbor Beach, Florida.

“So before any such serious health problems come up in Cuncolim, Goa, the owners of these polluting units should be made to pay for and conduct the cleanup of the ground around the polluting units. And stringent EPA-type guidelines should be imposed on these units. The health effects of these ground water pollutants on the local population should be closely monitored.

Solid industrial wastes and liquid effluents in one of the waste effluent tanks at one of the industrial units.

“The bureaucrats and the politicians who sanctioned permission for these units to operate while continuing to pollute the groundwater with deadly heavy metals like Zinc, Cadmium, Copper and Nickel and deadlier solvents should also be thrown out of office unless they take responsibility for cleaning up the pollutants and have the area tested to be contaminant free. Otherwise a Catastrophic Environmental disaster is waiting to happen and impact future generations of Cuncolkars living in that area,” he added.

The villagers need to place their security mechanism vis-a-vis pollution into place. Vigilant citizens need to be on guard to put the errant industries on the wrong foot.

Solid industrial waste dumped at the entrance of the Cuncolim industrial estate entrance, which greets visitors to the site.

When we were young, we often heard our grandparents tell us stories about the 12 bands of the village and the various natural water resources that the village was blessed with.

One such story that went about is that the Cuncolkars, the residents of Cuncolim, Goa, derived their warrior and intellectual insights from the water of the village.

Sadly, a new generation is growing up drinking polluted water, contaminated by industries. The water that our forefathers told us would give us an edge over others is threatening the health of the new generation.

Concerned villagers of Cuncolim point out the solid industrial effluents dumped by one of the industries to visiting officials from the Goa state pollution control board.

Permanent closure is the long-term solution and villagers need to build a strong case for closure of the industries.

A dissenting voice among the villagers is that of the people who will lose their jobs if the industries are closed. But the villagers question whether ones livelihood and means of employment should come at the cost of thousands if lives.

Human life is precious. The dangers of pollutions are too manifold to risk the continuation of the polluting industries in Cuncolim, Goa.

Chronology of Events Leading to the Closure of Industries at Cuncolim, Goa

  • Dead fish surface in a rivulet in Cuncolim.
  • The dead fish are sent for testing.
  • Test results are not made public.
  • Citizens get agitated.
  • Citizens find voice in the form of a Cuncolim citizens’ committee.
  • Concerned citizens file public interest litigation before the Goa branch of the Mumbai high court in Panjim.
  • Meetings over the pollution issue are organized by both the local municipal council and the citizens’ committee to inform the villagers.
  • Water samples are taken for testing.
  • Test results confirm villagers’ fears about the contamination of ground water.
  • High court orders the government to provide safe drinking water to areas affected by pollution in Cuncolim.
  • Goa state pollution control board orders closure of three industries.
  • Closed industries have outstanding electricity dues that are paid to the state government.

Article by Armstrong Augusto Vaz

One Comment

  1. It is imperative that when you pblish and article and support it with pictures you should name the aprties concerned so that people are aware

    1. sean on March 13th, 2007 at 1:07 pm

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