Never give up
Wednesday 15 October 1997
More than 200 villagers of Ghatvad village in Amreli district of Gujarat, have been on dharna (sit-in demonstration) for the past 25 days. They are protesting against the granting of a mining lease by the state government to the Gujarat Ambuja Cement Company. The proposed 905-ha site includes revenue and private land, and reserved forests.
Says Babubhai, of the Ghatvad Khedut Samaj Sangathan Aayojan Samiti, which has filed a public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court in May on the issue, "We will sit here in protest till the state government decides to withdraw the lease."
The growing menace of mining in the region (coastal Saurashtra, stretching from Madhavpur in Junagarh district to Jaffrabad in Amreli district) would not just jeo-pardise people's livelihoods by destroying agricultural land, but will also threaten the ecosystem of the Gir national park, the only home of the Asiatic lion in the world. Ghatvad lies but six km from the periphery of the park. Lions have recently been noticed moving along the park's fringes which means that when mining commences, their lives would certainly be in danger. Ashok Srimalia of Setu, Centre for Social Knowledge and Action, a social organisation, warns that mining will also have impacts on the vegetation.
However, the villagers might be in for a tough fight as the Saurashtra region, housing an estimated 1,150 crore tonne of limestone and a large proportion of the state's lignite reserves, holds great promise for industries. Others like Larsen and Toubro, Narmada and Saurashtra cements have already struck root there. As many as 30 mines have been sanctioned leases in the past five years. And all this activity is taking place within the 25-km zone of the park where the guidelines of the Environment Protection Act (1986) should ideally be applied.