Notwithstanding stiff opposition from Goa and Maharashtra, construction work on the mining jetty at Aronda continues. Villagers of Keri and Paliem in Goa and Aronda in Maharashtra claim that the work is being undertaken without approvals.
Aronda locals, who have been opposing the jetty for the past one year, have formed a 'Aronda Bachao Sangharsha Samiti' (ABSS) to register their protest. ABSS members have approached 18 concerned authorities in Maharashtra to stop the jetty construction. They have also met Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar."The iron ore loading jetty is coming up without permission from any authority in Maharashtra. Information sought through RTI from the concerned departments reveals that not a single competent authority has given permissions for a mining jetty. It's completely illegal as it is in CRZ-I area," ABSS president Avinash Shirodkar said.
Shirodkar added, "They don't have the pollution control board permissions, the land is agricultural and has not been converted to non-agriculture land, there is no clearance from the forests department but huge tracts of mangroves have been cut and land filling is also illegal."
The jetty on the Maharashtra side of Tiracol river is planned to enable loading of iron ore onto barges. Villagers around the area on both sides of the border fear that widening and deepening of the river mouth to facilitate barge movement will lead to sea water entering the river with greater force endangering those living on the river banks. They also fear their villages could vanish.
Villagers said work is presently on at a fast pace and large tracts of land are being levelled to facilitate ore dumping. Dredging work, locals alleged, happens at night.
Supporting the movement in Aronda, Goa's Keri and Paliem panchayats have passed resolutions opposing the jetty and forwarded these to the government.
"If dredging is undertaken at the mouth of river Tiracol, protection in the form of natural mountains will break away and Tiracol village will be washed away. The historic Tiracol fort can cave in as its base will be destroyed," Keri sarpanch Francis Rodrigues said.
"The panchayat has passed a unanimous resolution opposing the jetty and forwarded it to the government," Rodrigues added.
Paliem panch Babani Arolkar has also opposed the jetty fearing health problems and a threat to houses on the river bank. "Once the jetty begins functioning, dust pollution will increase and create health hazards like TB and asthma. Because of the dredging, houses in Kiranpani ward, which are on the river bank, can be washed away," Arolkar said.
Locals have sought Parrikar's intervention to stop the work on the jetty and have threatened to march to the assembly when the house is in session in the coming weeks. "The chief minister should intervene in the matter and save us from this disaster in the making," Kiranpani resident Pramod Palyekar said.
Local Maharashtra MLA Deepak Kesarkar has also registered his opposition to the jetty. "The jetty is illegal as it is coming up without any permission and is in a tourism notified area of Aronda. I will raise the issue in the assembly (Maharashtra) and will also file a PIL in the court to oppose the jetty," Kesarkar told TOI.
Mandrem MLA and panchayat minister Laxmikant Parsekar said the Goa government could not do much as the work is in Maharashtra. "If they do any work in Tiracol we will definitely oppose it. Illegalities will not be allowed," Parsekar said. There is no activity visible on the Goa side of the river.
On Thursday around 600 people met the divisional executive officer in Sawantawadi and presented him with a memorandum registering their opposition to the jetty. They have also forwarded the memorandum to the Maharashtra chief minister.
"Some 350 families from Maharashtra dependent on fishing activity which will be destroyed. There will also be health problems," ABSS member Manohar Arondekar said.
Sources said that a Mumbai-based firm is carrying out the constructing work at Aronda.
Purpose of jetty: Loading of iron ore from Maharashtra mines
Villages affected: Keri and Paliem in Goa, Aronda in Maharashtra
Repercussions: Dust pollution, threat to villages of both banks of river Tiracol, threat to Tiracol fort
Villagers allege: All work being carried out is illegal, no permissions obtained from Maharashtra government. [TOI]