09 May 2017 07:01pm IST
CRISTO DA COSTA
PM Antonio Costa inaugurates conference to mark 30th anniversary of Casa de Goa
The Goan diaspora worldwide has about 40 associations out of which the one in Portugal, called Casa de Goa, based in Lisbon with 570 members and is the only one with its own premises. At its 30th anniversary celebrations on May 6, it organised a conference titled: Sustainable Development in Goa in the 21st Century. Its success was due to the relentless efforts of its president Dr Edgar Valles and Maria Virginia Brás Gomes.
The conference was inaugurated by the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, who is the son of a Goan, a proud holder of an Indian PIO card and recently decorated with Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and by the chargé d’affaires of the Indian Embassy in Lisbon Amararam Gurjar who encouraged the Goan diaspora, reminding them that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had affirmed that it is their duty to contribute to the solution of the problems affecting India.
Valles in his welcome speech said, “It is not sufficient only to know the situation, it is also necessary to contribute to the solution of the problems affecting Goa. One can be a Portuguese citizen and at same time play a positive role regarding the place of origin, in this case Goa.”
He added that one of the objectives was to inform the members about the present situation in Goa, which is not the same as in 1961. He also announced that Casa de Goa is conferring, for the first time, an honorary membership to Costa.
In his inaugural speech, Costa referred to the recent investment of Indian companies in Portugal and to the joint Indian and Portuguese work in exploring the depths of the oceans and space in the Azores islands in the Atlantic Ocean. He also donated to the Casa de Goa all the gifts he received in India during his last visit.
The conference was intended to cover issues concerning the Goan diaspora and also to discuss activities and concerns of some Goans from Goa involved in maintaining ‘Goanness’.
The conference began with a five-minute presentation of photos of various aspects of Goan life by Harsh Kamat a professional photographer from Margao.
The Goan diaspora consists of Goans and their families who emigrated to Portugal from Goa, Mozambique and other overseas Portuguese former colonies who are now mainly in their 60s to 80s and of their children who came with them or were later born in Portugal.
The younger generation of these Goans, who do not speak Konkani, realise that they are a part of the “Indian diaspora” in Portugal and in large part of the global Indian diaspora and are trying to foster horizontal network with their counterparts of the “younger Indian diaspora” as pointed out by Altino Alvares in his presentation.
There were several presentations, which reflected the search and preservation of Goan identity and its heritage in the areas of art, music, culture, protection of environment etc. All these issues play a role in the daily life of the Goans in Goa.
Filipe Monteiro, on a very emotional, highly economic and environmental issue of the coconut tree being reclassified in Goa as a grass and not a tree, said allowing this would amount to allowing someone to demolish a piece of the Taj Mahal in Agra.
The issue of the gigantic effort of educating schoolchildren of 385 schools in Goa in preserving the environment and sensitizing them in reducing garbage was touched upon by Nalini Elvino de Sousa by displaying practical examples of toys created by schoolchildren from garbage.
Armando Gonsalves, from Goa ForGiving, spoke on his work with underpriviledged kids, on work towards cleaning of the Campal Creek in Panjim. Stating that Goa gets enough rainfall to supply water to the entire Indian population for 14 years and yet many households in Goa lack a continuous daily supply of piped water and depend on water being supplied by tankers, Darryl Pereira from Reira Group gave an example of how rain water can be efficiently collected and managed by injecting it into the ground and harvested when needed. He gave examples of ecological crimes being committed in the name of economic development.
The perennial problem in Goa of the increase of “garbage everywhere” and the efficient and economic method of disposing garbage by the unique and modern garbage plant situated in Saligao was highlighted by plant manager Richard Dias. He explained about the failure of segregating garbage in households, an issue which is basically an educational problem highlighted by de Sousa.
He also spoke of the 3 Rs: reducing the amount of garbage landing in the garbage bins of households themselves, reusing plastic bags and recycling the final garbage.
This led to a suggestion that plastic water bottles be collected (like beer bottles) by their producers and also of creating a special tax on thin plastic bags given free which could be used to pay the salaries of the environment controllers.
NIO (National Institute of Oceanography) is working for 15 years with the IST (Instituto Superior Técnico) of Lisbon to develop underwater vehicles for testing and recording environmental data in deep seas. This work is coordinated in Lisbon by associate professor Antonio Pascoal who gave an overview of the future joint work between the NIO and IST.