A friend brought to our notice her survey of the St Inez creek and areas around it that were her childhood play areas where she happily explored nature, birds and spent time with friends. The photos she shared with us of her recent walk along the creek were horrific to say the least. While we had heard the sorry state it was in on many occasions, as fellow citizens had begun initiatives to highlight its importance and the issues surrounding its degradation, we were faced with the hard reality of lacking basic amenities, failure of our local bodies to take cognizance of the same. The creek has been in a mess for the past seven years! Our reconnaissance visits since then has revealed the following:
1. Sewage is being let out into the creek at many points by all kinds of users and residents all along its length of 3.5 kilometres right from Inox outlet to Kamarabhat and further beyond across the fields of Taleigao to the large catchment area of Caranzalem-Nagalli lotus pond.
2. Mixed waste too is being dumped blatantly (wet household waste, medical waste like medicine bottles, pads, pampers, glass bottles, cloth, coconut shells, all non-biodegradables like plastic, thermacol, pet bottles and empty cement bags both in CCP limits and village panchayat areas along the creek.
3. Trees stumps, palm leaves and coconuts and other fruits too have been carelessly allowed to be thrown into or fall by users of adjoining plots.
So while the biodegradable waste is not so much of a problem as natural scavengers polish it off in minutes, the sewage and nonbiodegradable waste besides being an eyesore, poses a huge environmental problem to not just residents of the adjacent areas on either sides of the creek, but to the population at large for the simple fact that this leachate and toxins from plastic and other non biodegradable items has an impact on the ground water, marine life, vegetation and indirectly impacts us too.
Who is responsible for this mess? While we say that we as a community are partly responsible and are willing to work to put systems in place, we wonder if our local bodies and other government departments have a role to play ~ that of maintaining hygiene, implementing and monitoring laws already in place for pollution of water bodies, littering and garbage collection and management. So can we take action? But how do we go about it? How does a community, instead of being helpless, wake up and do something before it is too late and our creek becomes another Yamuna or Sabarmati?
Here is what we have already initiated and are readying for the following steps of action:
1. Compile detailed documentation of the biodiversity of the creek. How can this be done? There’s citizen science to the rescue. Photo document species and get these identified by experts in the field. Involve children and the community from the respective area or sectors along the creek. This is already underway.
2. We have already contacted the local bodies who have promised to clean up the creek. If they and other departments fail to take action, we will mobilize citizens and members of the creek community and clean up the mess. Even if only a few come forward, we will begin this exercise. There are already working models that have been implemented by Vivanta and Armando Gonsalves in Campal and we will use these models as best practices and multiply these along the creek.
3. Beginning with areas immediately beyond the Campal section, we will work in groups, involving schools and colleges and talk to each community to create awareness about the biodiversity of the creek, benefits of the water body and why we need to keep it clean from sewage and garbage, the hazards of dumping dry waste into water bodies, etc. We will also take cognizance of the lack of basic services like toilets and waste bins.
4. The final and most important point is preparing a vision for the creek and implementing it. Does the CCP or village panchayat have one? What is our vision for the St Inez Creek? Citizens and professionals have been sharing their vision for so many years now and it’s time to compile all this and work with the community to implement our vision. Get all the experts who have already prepared plans and others who have new ones. Look at best examples across the globe. Can we do it? It has been our dream for long and about time we realise it!
(The writer is part of Mission Green Goa/Aamchi Panaji)