‘Swiss-style voting can end mining woes’

Saturday, September 4, 2010

PANAJI - A suitably-adapted Swiss-referendum style mode of grassroots governance could control excess mining in Goa and other parts of the country, convenor of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) good governance cell Manohar Parrikar said Saturday.

Speaking to IANS on the sidelines of a workshop on mining and human rights here, Parrikar said uncontrolled and illegal mining in the state’s hinterland would leave the state water-starved within a decade.

“A Swiss-style referendum can work if people are willing to vote three to four times a year at the panchayat level on local issues concerning them,” Parrikar said, adding that such referendums would take ‘governance to the grassroots’ in the truest sense of the concept.

According to him, a suitably altered Swiss model of referendum-based governance could considerably help development of the hinterland areas as per the wishes of the people.

“A suitable method could be worked out. Like, if a particular village does not want a project in its vicinity, then the people themselves can convey their decision through a referendum which can be called to decide on the issue,” Parrikar said, adding that some exception in case of projects related to railways or defence could be kept out of the referendum purview to an extent.

“Nearly 56 percent of the Sanguem region in south Goa, which is the water bowl of Goa is given out under mining leases,” said Parrikar, speaking of Goa’s largest tehsil, which is also home to two wildlife sanctuaries and Goa’s largest artificial water catchment area, the Selaulim reservoir.

“Sanguem serves as a catchment area for most of Goa rivers. If mining is carried out in the areas at the present rate, Goa’s water resources will be destroyed in 10 years,” Parrikar said, adding that the reservoir provides water to more than half the state’s 13 lakh population spread over two districts.

The former chief minister said that five years ago, the iron content in the Selaulim dam was 70 percent. “Now mining in Goa has nearly doubled its production from 22 million tonnes to 46 million tonnes this year. The iron content is bound to increase,” Parrikar said.

The state government has already conceded during the last assembly session that more than half of Goa’s 182 mining leases (operational and non-operational) were located near water bodies, with three mining leases operating within one kilometre of Selaulim dam’s catchment area.

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