Development v/s Environment Safety must strike a balance
The agitation by the Villagers of Amona- Navelim against the Pig Iron Plant is taking an ugly turn. The Project has been in the making for the past whole decade. Both the project work and the operational phase gave employment to the local people. The village economy has benefited from the project. It is not as though the villagers never knew that the pig iron plant would be operating furnaces and there would be smoke generated from them. It therefore has raised eyebrows that the opposition should surface at this stage, so many years late — that too demanding that the plant be closed.
There is a popular story that an entire harbour was built by the Japanese firms who imported Goa’s iron ore out of the sand separated from the iron ore from Goa. It tells us how our resources were going far and wide for enriching their economies, while Goa’s own economy struggled for existence. We made a beginning towards utilizing Goa’s ore locally, by setting up this pig iron plant through Sesa Goa. Manufacturing industry that utilizes local resources enhances the total contribution of the local ore to the GDP of the State. Hence, value addition to the ore is an important option that has to be exercised by the State to derive maximum benefit from the excavated material for the economy of the State.
In neighbouring Ponda taluka and elsewhere in Goa, steel re-rolling mills have been functioning for years. Their pollution levels are monitored by the State Pollution Control Board. Obviously, the plant at at Amona-Navelim is also being monitored. It is not clear whether the State Pollution Control Board has found anything amiss with the factory ‘s emission levels, or the arrangements to addressed the genuine concerns of the villages around the Plant.
The State Government should seriously look into the complaints of the villagers , ascertain facts and order remedial steps, if necessary. For example, if the claim of the Villagers that the company had not taken the Pollution Control Board’s permission for starting the project, and also not obtained the clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, has any significant amount of truth in it, the matter needs to be viewed seriously and persons responsible punished in an exemplary manner.
The matter is getting clouded, and before long, there would be a full blown agitation which may get out of hands of those who are now spearheading it. Public interest requires that truth should prevail. It is also necessary that the Government, which is charged with the responsibility of monitoring the compliance with the laws it administers should make sure that enforcement does not spare the rich and the powerful. By all means punish the company, if it is found at fault. But don’t let self-appointed vigilante groups take over the functions of the Government. It would set a dangerous precedent.
At a time when our State is inviting Industrialists from other parts of the country to start new ventures here, we can hardly afford to be seen as a place where all and sundry appoint themselves as guardians of law.