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Mining waste jams water treatment plants
lakhs of people in Tiswadi and Ponda talukas of North Goa are facing water shortage because mining activities in the catchment area of Opa Water Treatment Plant in Ponda are hampering the plant's functioning.
The plant, constructed by the Portuguese, is the oldest in the state and is built across the Khandepar River. With a capacity of 115 million litres per day (mld), it supplies water to Panaji, Ponda and 55 villages. "Due to mining activities, the turbidity of the water has increased manifold and the filters at Opa Water Treatment Plant cannot filter it anymore," said environmentalist Ramesh Gawas. There are four mines in the plant's catchment area, Damodar Mangalji, Seza Goa, Velinkar Mines and Salgaocar. "Mining reject flows into the Khandepar and is responsible for increasing the turbidity of the water," added Gawas.
Gawas's claim is supported by a June 2008 report of Goa's public works department. Increase in turbidity chokes the filter bed and requires treated for cleaning the filter, states the 'Report on Water Supply System--Monsoon Problems'. The report indicts mining activities as the main factor responsible for increased turbidity during monsoons and the consequent limited production at water treatment plants in the state.
The Salaulim water supply system, which supplies water from the reservoir to Mormugao, Margao and 71 villages in South Goa District, has a different problem. "In Salaulim, we are facing the problem of dissolved manganese which colours the water and affects the treatment process," states the report. The Salaulim system, with a capacity of 160 mld, is the highest water production unit in the state.
Since 1994, residents of Khandepar village in Ponda have been complaining against mining. "The last complaint was made in November 2007 but no action has been taken," said Gawas. The pwd report recommends monitoring of activities on the river bank, specific guidelines and notified areas for dumping mining waste, and stopping mining wash discharge into the river. The Goa government is yet to take action.
Chemical contamination is another worry. "The water in the plant is not checked for metal residues. The possibility of chemical residues in tap water cannot be ruled out," said Gawas.
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