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St Inez Creek, a toxic bomb ready to explode

16 May 2017 05:04am IST
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16 May 2017 05:04am IST

The Portuguese-era creek, passing through Panjim, is filled with waste, raw sewage, decaying food and filth which gives a bad image to the capital city

SHWETA KAMAT

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Stand at any point from where the St Inez Creek passes through and you will be astonished with a deceptive green picture. There is a fresh green miniature plant cover as a result of stagnation and contamination of the water body. With pre-monsoon showers hitting the State, serious health concerns are raised, considering the recent outbreak of dengue in the vicinity. 

Right in the heart of State’s capital city, Panjim, flows the most polluted watershed, befouled by generations of waste and overflow from commercial and private establishments, located along the bank of the creek. It is not hard to spot or smell the filth in and around the creek, where the situation has worsened for the last couple of weeks. It is a different case that the situation had never improved in the past. 

The creek, which has been crying for attention for more than a decade now, is at present — and has been always — an oily, rainbow-slicked “water” body chockfull of cans, plastic bottles and bags, raw sewage and decaying food. Perhaps the hardest thing to spot in all of this is the water itself. 

There is no aquatic life, turbidity is high and there is also foul smell. DO (Dissolved Oxygen) is one of the most important indicators of the quality of water and its availability is vital for aquatic life. For good quality water, the dissolved oxygen level should be more than 5 ppm, while in case of St Inez creek it is zero.

Experts have warned that St Inez creek is a ‘health hazard’ bomb, which the authorities have been ignoring for past several decades. Haphazard development along the bank of the creek and increasing shanties, involved in direct release of raw sewage into creek water and the stagnation of water deprived of oxygen has turned this creek into a toxic chamber.

An official attached to Environment Department, on the request of anonymity, explains that the stagnation of water deprived of oxygen has made this creek into a major health hazard. “The aquifer has become polluted with black Iron Sulphide and the well water has become unusable. The water in wells located along side of creek is highly polluted and not consumable anymore,” stated the officer.

The environmental expert has raised serious concern about the health hazards. “The current condition of the creek is worrisome. Those living along the bank of the creek may be prone to malaria and dengue. With pre monsoon showers coming up, the situation is expected to worsen,” the expert said.

The Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) and the City Mayor Surendra Furtado made some attempts to purify the contaminated water body, failed to get the required support from the government. This despite the fact that the then Laxmikant Parsekar government in 2015-16 Budget had earmarked nearly Rs 8 crores for cleaning and beautification of St Inez creek project -- something that never worked out. 

While the Board introduced the aeration process, Furtado, through CSR funds, raised Rs 15 lakhs and had introduced de-weeding using amphibian de-weeding and cutting machine. However, the same caught into legal issues. 

When contacted, the Mayor refused to comment on the condition of the creek requesting to ‘ask the Government’. 

However, the anger on his face was quite evident towards government apathy in paying attention to the creek’s condition. 

The Capital city has now slipped down to 90th position amongst 434 cities reviewed by the Swachh Survekshan 2017. The irony is that while BJP-led government boasts of getting sanctioned Rs 550 crore worth Smart City concept for Panjim, the cleaning and beautification of St Inez creek is sorely missing from the concept -- something that needed the top most priority. 

On the contrary, the Government now intends to regularise the shanties located along the bank. The same shanties are identified to be the prime cause for the contamination of the creek.

The cleanliness and beautification of the putrid Portuguese era St Inez Creek is indeed a political-socio-economic problem. Despite pollution authority reports clearly indicate that the hutments, residential complexes and commercial establishments located along the creek are responsible for its contamination, the Government in all, is laying low to act upon these violators. The hutments ---majority of which are occupied by migrants – are looked upon as a strong vote bank by the councilors.

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