India – Thousands of villagers from Navelim in Bicholim taluka of Goa today observed a day-long Bandh against the Sesa Corporation’s Goa metallurgical coke plant in the village, with complaints that it is polluting their surroundings. Originally a Hindi word meaning ‘closed’, Bandh is a form of protest used by political activists, during which a political party or a community declares a general strike.
The bandh started at 6 am, with locals blocking the entire stretch connecting Panaji to Bicholim taluka.
Sundar Gawas, one of the protestors, said Sesa Goa had taken the entire village and State Government for granted, claiming that expansion of the existing plant has increased pollution levels in the surroundings.
“We can see black dust powder on our food. God knows how much of such particles we have been inhaling,” he said.
Sesa Goa, which set up its plant in Goa in 2006, has begun expansion of its facility since this month. The company spokesman earlier had confessed that the high capacity diesel burners had misfired during pre-heating activities, releasing black smoke in the air on August 17 and August 18.
The villagers spoke out that the State Pollution Control Board and even the Ministry of Environment Forest (MoEF) did not conduct any of the mandatory public hearings required leading to the expansion of the plant. The gram sabha held on Sunday had decided to hold a one-day bandh to attract attention towards the gross illegalities committed by the plant. Despite heavy rain, for the first time in the history of Navelim, villagers forgot their differences on the basis of political parties and caste, and united to participate in the strike that held until 6pm. All schools, shops, establishments, commercial institutions, government and semi-government offices were closed today.
Sesa Goa, Limited has been polluting water sources operating a 250,000 tonne pig iron manufacturing plant since 1992, and a 280,000 tonne metallurgical coke manufacturing plant since 1994 at Amona which was shifted to Navelim in 2006. Sesa and other mines are owned by Vedanta Resources plc, headquartered in London and owned by a British multi-billionaire, Anil Agarwal.
For more information on environmentalism in India, visit India Environmental Portal
~compiled by Molly J, Earth First! Journal collective member