- Goa next after Kerala, warn environmentalists
Goa next after Kerala, warn environmentalists
Destruction of environment and eco-sensitive areas is a call for a disaster like the one in the southern State, the green lobby cautions; Calls for a rethink of planning policies
PANJIM: The destruction of eco-sensitive areas (ESA) in the guise of eco-tourism, infringement into no-development zones (NDZ) across coastal belts, filling up mangroves and haphazard development might lead to a Kerala-flood like situation in Goa, warn environmentalists.
The southern State is going through its worst flood in almost a century, and environmentalists familiar with both States are worried that Goa may be next. They point out that like the Kerala government, the Goa government to reject the Madhav Gadgil and Dr Kasturirangan Committee report on Western Ghats that had identified 1461 sq kms in Goa as ESA. Today, the people of Kerala are paying for the blatant disregard to the Gadgil report by their government, environmentalists feel.
Speaking to Herald, environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar said that the disaster in Kerala is manmade. “Insensible use of land, soil and rocks can lead to a deluge. Compared to Kerala, Goa is a small State and its towns get flooded even with just three or four inches of incessant rains,” he said.
He added, “The government has allowed the destruction of ESA in the guise of eco-tourism, without even understanding the topography or geographical areas. Along the coastal belts, there are rampant violations of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms along big projects in the NDZ. Mangrove forests are being destroyed in the name of development. You see, hills are being cut to make ways for roads, bridges, etc. These hills were known to hold the monsoon water but today they are weakened.”
“This is a welcome call for disaster,” he said, pointing out that even if not in full, the government should have partially accepted the recommendations of the Gadgil and Kasturirangan Committee report, which had prohibited developmental projects, quarrying, and mining in the proposed ESA identified by them.
The committees had identified 1461 sq kms, covering 99 villages (entire villages) of three talukas – Sattari (56), Sanguem (38) and Canacona (5) – as eco-sensitive. The State government had declined to accept the report arguing that the ESAs were declared without taking the State and the people into confidence. It was said that the decision will affect several inhabitants living in these areas, including in the forest.
Ecologist Gadgil himself says that Goa will also experience the sort of problems Kerala is. “In Goa government had asked me to look into the environment impact assessment of mining. Every EIA suppresses the correct fact about the hydrological impact of mining. On the sadas (plains) of Goa there are a lot of streams originating but they don’t make mention of that. They simply claim that there no streams, water etc, all false statements. Certainly, all sorts of problems are beginning to surface. Goa of course does not have ghats as high as in Kerala, but I am sure Goa will also experience all sorts of problems,” he said.
Speaking about his report, Gadgil said that whatever criticism has been made against the report, nobody has been able to show any factual mistake in it. “The facts mentioned in the report are correct. The recommendations are entirely within our constitutional provisions and our various laws. Implementing the report means government stopping flouting our own laws and government stopping suppressing our own people,” he said.
“Forget our report, government must begin to behave lawfully and then automatically it means our report is implemented,” Gadgil said.
Environmentalist and Goa Foundation director Dr Claude Alvares said, “I hope everyone will learn a lesson from this. Due to climatic change, such tragedies are bound to increase. Nobody can stop rains or control floods. But we can take measures to lower the intensity of such impacts.” Goa receives about 100 inches of rain every monsoon.
Similar to Kerala, Goa is also facing human incursions and unscientific developmental activities in the ESA, and its example we have seen with flooding in past in talukas like Canacona, Bicholim, he said. “I will say, Goa is already in danger. Climate is already upset and it is time the government acts. Government needs to rethink on its planning policies seriously,” Alvares said.