Monday 19 November 2018

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Economy | Agriculture

Commercial farmers cross swords with mining industry

 

Commercial farmers and powerful mine owners in Goa are on loggerheads for the first time in Goa's history as the cultivated land of over 30,000 trees has been leased out for mining purpose in the rich forest area of hinterland here.

Three commercial farmers, Narsinv Plantations, Reliance Agro Industries and Hoysala Farms, have strongly objected to the renewal of mining lease, which is due in November this year. The lease was granted to a local mine owner in 1956, during Portuguese regime. A legal battle thus seems imminent

The three trader-turned-farmers from Margao have successfully cultivated around 400 acres of hinterland forest area of Sanguem, on the border of Karnataka, growing coconuts, arecanuts, cashew, rubber, pepper, citronella grass and fruit bearing trees, with an annual income of Rs 10 to Rs 15 lakh each. However, 280 acres of its land has been leased out for extraction of iron ore.

The environmental status assessment of these three commercial farms, conducted by a local consultancy firm, clearly states that it would be criminal to change the existing land use to other pattern. It would cause disturbance to natural topography, degradation of land, soil erosion, loss of habitat for animal life and loss of cultivation and investment, states the report.

According to the farmers, the surface land they are cultivating is also not protected well by law in case the mining activity begins. "Even the legal provision of keeping aside 30 per cent part of the soil surface, to spread it again once mines are refilled after extraction, is not followed here", points out Keshav Naik, owner of Narsinv Plantations.

''The government is being controlled by the mining lobby in Goa since liberation. We don't know whether the authorities would be concerned about our agriculture in such a situation'', states Inesio Coutinho, owner of Reliance Agro Industries.

As legal provisions demand, they have already filed formal objection to the renewal, one year in advance. But Chief Minister Pratapsing Rane, a farmer himself, has still not taken any steps to stop the renewal of lease.

Though they have also requested the government to exclude their properties from the lease, they are not sure of winning even a court battle as the government legislations give no protection to the land owners, despite their objection to the renewal of the lease.

Pollution caused due to mining activity in the entire hinterland of the state has been a matter of concern here since Goa's liberation in 1961. Dumping mining rejects and destroying the traditional agricultural activity still continues here, with hardly any remedial measures being taken to arrest the problem.






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