A report by Sushila Mendonca
Meet 9-year-old Akash Sham Sunder Naik – a veritable David taking on a Goliath. After all, mining companies in Goa, and for that matter anywhere in the world, are no small fry to take on and oppose. Akash has done just that. He has filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in the high court of Bombay (Goa Bench) against one of Goa’s largest mining companies, Sesa Goa, for unlawful mining activity. Akash Naik has filed a petition against Sesa Goa, charging them of unlawful mining activity in Advalpal.
Thanks to Akash, Sesa Goa was told to restrain all mining operations at Advalpal by the Goa bench of Bombay High Court in an interim order.
Till a couple of months back, Akash used to live in the village of Advalpal in Bicholim district in North Goa. Bicholim is one of the worst affected villages by iron-ore mining that has taken over Goa. The villages here have red roads, and red houses and red trees and red grass and a red haze in the air which doesn’t always make the locals see as red as we the non- affected would expect them to feel from our safe places. Perhaps the only green seen is that which buys silence.
He shifted to the outskirts of Panjim city after his doctor advised his parents to shift away from the area in order to improve their health. Akash misses his carefree days in his village. He could never be found at home – if he wasn’t in the neighbors house, he was running around in the village, exploring the hill side, picking at wild berries and playing in whichever natural water bodies he and his band of merry friends could find.
His source of inspiration is his father, Shyamsunder Naik, an activist who has been protesting about mining companies and the damage they are doing to his village since 2005. Because of this, Akash, along with other children from the village, have attended many protests and public meetings. This has included rallies to the pollution board and to the premises of a mining company.
I went to visit Akash at his house in the outskirts of Panjim where he now stays. This is what he had to say:
“My name is Akash Sham Sunder Naik. I am nine years old. Till some months back, I used to live in our old village — Advalpal in Bicholim taluka in North Goa. But I had to shift to another place because of all the destruction happening due to mining in our village. The mining companies are cutting up whole hills and they are spoiling our village. Because of that, there is so much pollution. The red dust is everywhere – it is entering our noses and mouths. Children in our village are falling sick, getting breathing problems and other complications. I too fell sick. I had repeated bouts of cough and cold and I missed a lot of school. I got typhoid. My doctor told me it is all because of the red dust in the air.
Our springs were also drying up and people’s fields were drying up. After the mining began, wild animals from the forested hills started coming into our homes. People got bitten by snakes. One day, after it rained heavily during the monsoons, a mudslide happened in the night on one of the mined hills. All the excavated and loosened mud caused by the mining turned to slush, slid down the hill entered houses from the rear and exiting from the front sweeping away the houses along with it into the fields. People were sleeping in the houses. This was the turning point. We felt we couldn’t take it anymore. I filed a case so all this does not happen in the future. I would like to tell all children that they may be just children but they too should come forward to help close that iron-ore mine in our old village. Close all mines. Only if this mining stops, will our houses, our villages remain. And only then will we get water. If these mines are not stopped we will not get water in the future. That’s why I filed a PIL. I want to tell all children that all mines in Goa need to be closed. My request to everyone is please help us close down the mines that are destroying Goa.”
The Goa Foundation (www.goafoundation.org), a well-known environmental action group which is pursuing several litigations against mining firms helped Akash file a case.
Akash’s petition has been a nasty jolt to the leading mining company owned by the UK-based Vedanta Group. The company recently made headlines when it bought mining leases worth over Rs17 billion from Goa-based Dempo Group.
How you can help:
1. Leave your comments to this story in the comments box. The more reactions people see, the more they will realise this is an issue that matters to you.
2.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in a campaign to stop mining in Goa.