Wetlands are vital for Goa’s ecological security. These areas are known to be the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems. And as O Heraldo has reported, wetlands ensure water purification, flood control, soil erosion prevention, and a secured habitat for a wide range of plants and animals. The national ‘Save Wetlands’ campaign was launched on February 4 from Goa. However, Goa has taken five years to follow a central direction to declare wetlands only after the intervention of the National Green Tribunal. In this series VETTING GOA’S WETLANDS, O Heraldo reports from the declared wetlands to bring you the status report of each
MARGAO: The Goa government has decided to implement the Centre’s direction to declare wetlands, after five years, ONLY after it took an activist to move the National Green Tribunal against Goa’s non-implementation of a central direction in September 2017 to State governments to declare Wetlands.
On September 28, the government of Goa proposed to declare nine water bodies as Wetlands, thereby taking the total number of Wetlands in Goa to 43. The National Green Tribunal is monitoring it after activists complained that the Goa Government was not acting on the Centre’s directive.
The notification enlists activities that will be permitted, regulated and prohibited in these lakes once they are declared as Wetlands.
In wetlands, activities such as setting up of industries, conversion for non-wetland use and dumping of garbage are strictly prohibited. In the buffer zones cultivation of crops, planting of indigenous trees and grazing and wallowing is permitted (See boxes for a full list of permitted and non-permitted activities in wetlands and buffer zones).
Meanwhile, the withdrawal of water by the community, which is regulated in Maimollem Lake, will be permitted in the other eight lakes with the permission of the wetlands authority.
Nine lakes- Maimollem in Vasco, Vhodle-Dhakte in Cortalim, Lamgao in Bicholim, Moingal in Shiroda, Kamala Tollem in Benaulim, Oilem Tollem in Chandor, Ambulor in Verna and Bebki and Bachbhatt both in Raia are sought to be notified as Wetlands.
These lakes are selected based on a report submitted by the Centre for Scientific & Industrial Research of the National Institute of Oceanography. “We have actually identified over 40 water bodies in Goa that can be declared as wetlands,” disclosed the scientist who headed the team that prepared the report.
Dr Pradip Sarmokadam who is the Nodal Officer for the Goa State Wetland Authority (GSWA) said they are committed to protecting the water bodies in Goa without adversely affecting people.
“We have inspected some places where people will be affected due to the buffer zones and we shall find a way to save their interest,” he said while admitting that the buffer zones have been proposed based on satellite images.
As per the recent notification, with the exception of Maimollem Lake, the pre-existing ownership rights and privileges of the other eight lakes shall be maintained and not transferred in any manner to the GSWA even though the Government of Goa is the owner of the Lamgao Tollem.
Except for Ambulor Lake extraction of soil, mud, rock and sand for commercial purposes is prohibited in the other eight proposed Wetlands. But veteran Joao Philip Pereira who is active in the Comunidades said exempting Ambulor from the extraction ban is a mistake because Ambulor is the source of River Sal any extraction from this lake is prohibited,” opined.
Maimollem Lake is the only exception as the withdrawal of water by the community will be regulated here and the notification is silent on tree plantation and grazing & wallowing in this lake.
“This is probably because there are no cattle in Vasco and also because there are many houses in the buffer zone where grazing or wallowing is not possible,” said Yatin Kamurlekar, the local Councillor.