Goa’s flora, fauna rejoice as mining comes to grinding halt

While the closure of mining activities in the state has met with mixed response, it has given biodiversity a new lease of life since various elements of biological wealth in Goa's mining belt are on their way to revival.

It is a sign of hope in the land from which almost half the quantum of India's iron ore exports come from.

Every year, the huge quantum of iron and manganese ore mixed with mud from the innards of Goa's majestic mountains was excavated mostly in the ghat and forested areas, seriously affecting biodiversity and wildlife. Goa is the integral part of the Western Ghats that are among the 12 ecological hotspots on planet Earth in terms of its enormous biodiversity of plant and animal life.

The mining industry, described as the backbone of the Goan economy, has conducted environmentally-destructive operations over the last three decades, which has resulted in the breaking of Goa's ecological backbone. With about 447 species of birds, Goa is among major bird-watching tourism sites in the world where tourists from various parts of the globe throng here to enjoy a veritable feast of bird-sighting.

The forests in the Western Ghats of Goa contain many endemic flora and fauna species.

Mining for a long time has disregarded their claims to survival.

But, presently, the closure of mining activities has given hope to biodiversity. Narayan Parodkar, a bird watcher from Keri-Sattari, who recently visited mining-affected Pissurlem said, "As mining operations have been totally stopped and there is no air and water pollution, one can see that the sacred groves of 'Pejalechi Rai' and 'Mharinganachinrai' have been transforming into a natural habitat for various species of birds."

At Mhardano, in Surla-Bicholim, visitors can enjoy the cool shade of trees inside the sacred grove which was earlier badly affected by mining transportation. "The Netravali wildlife sanctuary at Sanguem was affected by mining activities, but nowadays, the trucks transporting the ore have been totally stopped and due to this, one can experience wild animals like the 'gaur' crossing a public road. These days, reports of wild animal sighting are more in this area," said Prakash Salelkar, range forest officer at the Netravali sanctuary.

Damodar Gawali from Bandhwada-Neturlim said, "Not only human beings, but wild animals are enjoying peace of mind as mining has been halted. Rivona, once known for its flora and fauna, today is gradually returning back to normal life since a very less number of vehicles are seen on the road."

Harvesting of clams is a major source of income but the operation of mines has led to heavy siltation of the river beds, drastically reducing the clam population and threatening this source of livelihood of locals. Madhu Yeshwant Naik Gaonkar from Khandola said, "Presently, heavy barge traffic has totally stopped and due to this, clams and their harvesting has improved in the areas from where our River Mandovi flows. Fisherfolk from our areas have been getting good harvest of clams and fishes nowadays."

Amrutsingh of Animal rescue squad from Bicholim, said, "In Mayem, the wild boars are freely moving around in broad daylight. Cases of wild boars destroying agriculture and horticulture fields are on the rise. During the mining operations, there was no peace and tranquility left for the wild animals in the mining belt. But, now, a mouse deer, which is a rare wild animal, was rescued recently at Mayem."

"The Malabar Gliding Nymph butterfly is endemic to the Western Ghats and was extinct in Pissurlem due to increased mining activities, but recently, this endemic butterfly was seen in a horticulture field at Avalimol," says Suryakant Gaonkar from Bhuipal-Sattari.

Rama Velip of Colomb-Sanguem said, "My village is forested and the reservoir of the Selaulim dam is very near, but the government without paying attention to providing security for it, has allowed mining activities, hardly adhering to the law of the land. But now with the closure of mines, our region has been taking a new breath of life. The lord of the jungle, the tiger, has been seen returning back to its natural habitat." [TOI]