Cloud Atlas and Us Mining Mortals!!

By Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar
12 September 2012 19:43 IST

A lot of chaos on mining and its regulation these days. I for one am not at all surprised. Politicians of all parties irrespective of the degree of power they possess, hand in glove with the exploiters of Goa's mineral wealth. Environmental clearances falsified. Tribals shown as non existent. Mines reaching an underground level deeper than the underground water table. And yet the water is reported as unpolluted. Goa transformed into just another banana state of a banana republic.

Goa, area wise is 0.11% of the area of India. Yet the Goan mineral ore constitutes 50% of the total ore extracted all over India. Goa's ore extraction is considered to be 460 times its geographical capacity. Selaulim dam and Opa river which cater to 80% of Goa's population have high level of manganese and mining silt. Recently, the manganese content of water has shot up to 3 mg/liter as against the permissible 0.5 mg/liter. A study by the National institute of Oceanography has found high concentration of iron particles in the water of bays near the sea. Tigers and several bird species have totally disappeared from the Western Ghats.

Exposure to high concentration of manganese in water for years can cause toxicity to the human central nervous system producing a syndrome that resembles Parkinsonism. Young children absorb more manganese than older age groups and excrete less. This adds up to greater potential for exposure in the very young. Since the adverse effects of manganese on the developping nervous sytem of the newborns and infants have not been adequately studied it is especially prudent for pregnant women and young children to have drinking water that is below the manganese Action Limit (AL) of 0.5 mg/liter as defined by the USFDA.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health, drinking water section says, "If you have a manganese concentration in water greater than 0.5mg/liter you should consider installing a water treatment system or drink bottled water. Treatment systems are primarily of the filtration type including manganese greensand, manganese dioxide and cation exchange with potassium chloride regeneration or aeration followed by filtration. If the manganese water concentration is above 1.5 mg/liter or if the concentration suddenly increases irrespective of previous concentration you or your local health department should contact the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)."

India has no such guidelines in place.

Now let us go to iron. The thing that you will notice most from water that is high in iron is that the water may taste metallic. The water may appear discolored and may even contain sediment. Iron may leave red or orange rust stains in the sink, toilet and bath tub. It can discolor ceramic dishes. The iron sediment in water may harbor bacteria that can be harmful. Iron may cause conjunctivitis, choroiditis and retinitis if it contacts and remains in the tissues. Chronic inhalation of excessive concentration of iron oxide fumes or dusts results in development of a benign pneuconiosis called siderosis which is observable as an X ray change.

Despite knowing all this the indiscriminate mining with its attendant environmental and water pollution continues. Why ?

Amidst the ever changing cloud-form of the atlas of human behavior two factors have remained constant throughout the history of humanity -- greed and predacity. Predacity is the destructive behavior identical to that of a predator. The endless greed for wealth and power results in mindless predacity.

Another factor is fear. Fear of the unknown. What will happen if Goa looses its revenue out of mining when the mines are shut down for good? How can Goa rehabilitate the thousands who depend on mining as their livelihood ?

The collective consciousness of a civilization is the same as the consciousness of an individual. Individual is not an entity separate from the society in which he or she lives. If each individual can understand greed and fear in totality including all its roots and branches then it may be possible for the individual to become free of greed and fear. If individual becomes free from greed and fear the civilization becomes free of greed and fear too.I am the world. If I am not there the world is not there for me. In fact greed and fear are two sides of the same coin. Embedded deeply in the desire for success is the fear of failure.

Then the REAL question is can an individual be free from greed and fear and act out of freedom rather than out of greed or fear or both ? If an individual CAN overcome greed and fear the society CAN too.There is no duality between the individual and the society. If REAL FREEDOM from greed and fear does not come, one kind of greed will just be transformed to another kind. So also for fear.

So to me the question is not whether we can stop mining and save environment while at the same time stumble upon alternate modality of revenue generation. To me the REAL question is whether an INDIVIDUAL can be free of greed and fear and thus be free to live a life of sheer joy.

It is important to realize that every action of an individual or a society has a consequence. The consequence may or may not be separated from action by time and/or space; but sure as hell the consequence will be there. And is it not possible that action and consequence are two sides of the same coin merely perceived as different due to complexities of human thought ?

Sometimes I wonder how many people can see this beautiful world in its true colors. Most people I come across seem to see the world as black, white or shades of grey !

When will we Indians have enough integrity to know the value of things and not the price ??

Blogger's Profile

Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.

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