Avalmol fields parched as perennial stream dries up

It's the ultimate irony. Though the pits around wear a deserted look thanks to the mining ban currently under way in the state, the lone, perennial stream watering Avalmol has dried up this season.

The decades of mining activities in this hamlet of Pissurlem in Sattari taluka have finally taken a toll on the stream, point out the tribal Gawda families who call Avalmol home.

The threat posed by the dried-up stream is dire. It waters the horticultural plantations and fields that are largely the lone sources of income for the families here.

"Two generations of my family have toiled to raise this kullaghar," says Avadu Gajanan Gawde, a tribal widow.

"It not only provides us with food, but also fuel (wood) and other resources," she says of the areca nut, coconut, nutmeg, pineapple, banana, growing in the plantation.

Pointing to the mined hills around the property, she says it's been a struggle to protect the kullaghar. "Though mining companies had approached us to purchase our land, we refused to sell. But with the flowing water of Sukad Vhal disappearing we are really afraid for our land," she cries.

The widow's family has submitted a memorandum to the village panchayat at Pissurlem. Another horticulturist, Devanand Gawde, 42, alleges, "There were three mines operating in our vicinity and they all mined below the ground water table which is why the perennial stream flowing from Pisodevache tole has dried up."

Pointing out that the stream's water watered his family's plantation in Survey Nos. 21/1, 22/2 and 22/3, he says, "This is the first time we are facing this problem."

Pushpa Gawade, 35, too is facing a dilemma, whether to continue the cultivation of local varieties of vegetables this season or not.

"Every year, during winter, we cultivate local varieties of vegetables, amaranth, raddish, chillies, chickpea etc. This year, since there is no water in the stream, we are facing major problems while cultivating," she says.

Pissurlem sarpanch Vijay Parab told TOI, "I have received the memorandum and will inform government officials concerned to take necessary steps to solve this irrigation problem faced by Avalmol's tribals." [TOI]