25 Apr 2021  |   05:24am IST

Preserving & protecting natural sources of water

An NGO in Vasco decides to rewind to the 1960 hoping to return to the roots where Goans used to derive their water from springs and fountains seeking to dig deep into the debris, waste and other impediments which have closed the outlets for the fresh water. DHIRAJ HARMALKAR travels to different spots in Mormugao where natural water was in plenty, but due to some or other factor, the pure groundwater is choked and clogged to discover like-minded persons who want to get these obstacles removed so that people enjoy pure water full of minerals and medicinal value.
Preserving  & protecting natural sources of water

Mormugao taluka is blessed with lush green vegetation, beautiful natural springs, wells, lakes, nullahs, etc, which are sources for freshwater. The people from Mormugao taluka have been using the freshwater from these sources for many years when the tap water was not a household name. People in the past used this water to drink, bathe, wash clothes, utilise it for vegetation and for agricultural purpose in some areas. But in late 90’s the tap water in almost every household revolutionised everything. The need to fetch water from wells, springs also died a natural death. Slowly the natural springs and sources of freshwater also went out from the vision and from the minds of the people and the authorities.

Now, after several years, since the temperature started soaring and the need for the fresh water increased due to upsurge in the consumption of water, people started considering the revival and protection of natural sources of water on which once upon a time these people were dependent on for their water needs.

In Mormugao, every village from Quelossim, Kesarval, Pirni, Verna, Sancoale, Chicalim, Bogmalo, Vasco and Sada areas has got several number of wells, natural springs and other sources of fresh water which now have either turned into gutters, submerged under the debris, mixed waste or have got polluted due to neglect. Citizens, including authorities, have realised that time has come to give a serious thought for rainwater harvesting, water conservation, identifying natural sources of water and maintaining them before they disappear from sight due to so many factors.

A senior citizen from Vasco said that people nowadays are so used to luxury and comfort that they prefer ‘instant’ and everything on a platter. “My grandparents,” he said, “didn’t have the comfort we enjoy now, but they knew how to make use of the things nature provided them.”

“They would toil in the fields, sweat it out growing vegetables, drawing water from wells, walk distances to fetch spring water. This kept them hale and hearty and doctors were seldom in their list,” he added.

Dr Baban Ingole, Retired Chief Scientist CSIR National Institute of Oceanography, Goa told Herald how important these natural sources of freshwater are at present when the entire world is marching towards securing its share of freshwater which might be very difficult to find with ease in the future. Dr Ingole said that there is a need to identify where and how many such springs, wells other sources of freshwater exist in the Mormugao taluka and in other places. “The freshwater that we find from these sources is rich in minerals and clean. We don't even require such fresh water to filter as we get it naturally filtered,” said Dr Ingole.

Ingole mentioned that one of the reasons why these sources of freshwater die or are extinct because most of the time these are situated far from a residential area. Without realising what they are blocking some people tend to dump bio-medical and mixed waste, debris etc, near such natural springs which further leads to choking of the sources of the natural springs from where the water originates.

There is a need to conduct mapping of these natural springs and other sources of freshwater, their geo referencing has to be done. “If there is any dumping of waste happening near such sources then they need to be stopped immediately and steps need to be taken to protect and maintain such natural sources of water. Even the people need to get involved in protecting and preserving such natural resources,” the doctor said.

The Biodiversity Management Committees, The Panchayats and the NGOs need to take up the cause of protecting and keeping these natural sources of freshwater alive and clean. Partly the Goa State Biodiversity Board has been doing the work of identifying such springs, lakes, etc. The govt has got funds to protect and maintain such natural sources of freshwater.

“This freshwater from the natural springs, lakes, ponds, streams, wells, etc could be used for drinking, vegetation or for agricultural purposes too," Dr Ingole said.

Parshuram Sonurlekar, RTI activist and President of GOA FIRST NGO said “We, residents of Mormugao constituency, are blessed to have six natural springs which are all in use till date. These natural springs were the only source of drinking water for most of the residents for many decades till the late 90's. The State government’s efforts of supplying water to each household is a remarkable achievement in Mormugao but at the same time this has led to neglect of these natural springs.”

Sonurlekar also revealed that GOA FIRST NGO had placed a Right To Information (RTI) application with Water Resources Department (WRD) minister asking about the number of natural fresh water sources and water harvesting facility in Mormugao constituency but we were "shocked" to know that not a single spring is known to the department.

Considering this sad reality, GOA FIRST has urged the local authorities and the elected representatives to come forward and save these natural springs and sources of fresh water, as thousands of litres of water is being wasted or not utilised every day.

“As we are aware that in most parts of Goa there is an acute shortage of water and even in Mormugao Taluka in parts like New Vaddem, Mangor Hill, etc this water can be utilised for drinking purpose for both human and animal," Sonurlekar added.

Cyril Fernandes, Human Rights activist and an active member of Chicalim Heritage Committee, said, “Today the springs and other fresh water bodies are under threat from ground water exploitation through bore wells. The existing mechanism to monitor ground water extraction through bore wells is not adequate. This policy needs to be amended and made more stringent. Otherwise we will shortly destroy our springs and 'tollim' (ponds).”

He further said Chicalim village from Mormugao taluka is blessed with a number of natural freshwater springs. These springs are an indicator of the rich groundwater conditions. “All the springs, however, were in neglected conditions till date. But after the formation of the BMC, the springs have been included in the PBR of the village. And work of restoration is being initiated. Fresh water springs are our heritage which we need to protect. We Chiklekars are attempting another novel way to protect our springs by getting them registered and marked in our Outline Development Plan. In this manner, whenever the PDA is planning any development activities at the sites of such springs, the authority will be cautioned to design projects that do not come in conflict with these springs and they remain protected," Fernandes added.

Xencor Polgi, anti coal activist from Mormugao, also felt that WRD department and the elected representatives should give a serious thought to saving, protecting and reviving the natural wells, ponds, springs which are the vital sources of fresh water before it’s too late. 

“The natural springs, wells from Mormugao taluka are in bad condition. There is a need to make some water storage arrangement near these sources of water so that thousands of litres of fresh water could be stored and supplied to the people. In this way these sources of fresh water could be protected and preserved for posterity,” Polgi added.

He even felt that the rainwater harvesting which should have started in Goa a few years ago has taken a back seat. WRD has turned a blind eye towards these natural sources of water from Mormugao. Govt should do holistic and sustainable development rather than just making concretisation, putting pavers everywhere which is not at all healthy for nature. WRD engineers should make a plan to preserve and revive these natural fresh water sources and the WRD should be prudent in taking steps towards this goal," Polgi added.


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