The Goa Government has finally resolved to shut down the mines pouring manganese and iron ore in the Selaulim reservoir, the source of potable water for 55 per cent of the State’s population.

The State will have to shut down the mines operating within the river zone of Selaulim dam, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told presspersons yesterday.

“We have to stop all mines pouring in material (iron ore and manganese) in Selaulim reservoir,” Parrikar said.

Situated about 100 km south of Panaji in Sanguem taluka, Selaulim dam has 19 mining leases operating within a few kilometers of its periphery.

These mines were permitted based on the wrong facts provided to get environment clearances (from the Union Environment and Forest Ministry), he said adding that they have dumped the ore along the Selaulim dam, which is washed in the reservoir.

“Our report indicates at least 15 feet of the usage section of the storage is already filled with mud, that is more serious,” the Chief Minister conceded.

Recently, the manganese content in Selaulim water had reached alarming levels. The state PWD had admitted that it was six times higher than permissible levels.

Parrikar said although manganese content in the reservoir has increased, there is nothing to worry about.

“All manganese compounds are not soluble in water and though the content is there, it is free floating,” he said.

“The chemical manganese which can be absorbed in the stomach is within control,” Parrikar added.

Environmentalists in the State claim they had warned it about the serious effect of the mining operation on Selaulim dam some years back.

Environmentalist Ramesh Gawas said the situation at the reservoir has turned from bad to worse, with illegal mines mushrooming around it.

Incidentally, the area around the dam is a part of the Netravali wildlife sanctuary, where mining has to be completely banned.

The Justice M. B. Shah commission, a judicial panel which has done an extensive study of Goa’s iron ore industry, said they have identified three mines around the Selaulim dam area covering 83 hectares, operating since 2003 and working without valid mining leases.

(This article was published on September 20, 2012)
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