07 May 2023  |   05:45am IST

When will the government be able to quench GOA’S THIRST?

Being a coastal State, Goa gets a bountiful of rains during the monsoon from June to September. The intensity of rain is so forceful that it even causes flooding in the low lying areas. But ironically, this rain water is not stored properly and consequently, every summer, Goans face severe hardships due to water scarcity. In the Herald TV weekly debate Point-Counterpoint, AVIT BAGLE explores the reasons for such acute water shortage every year and why there is no concrete solution taken from the government to deal with this recurring problem
When will the government be able to quench GOA’S THIRST?

Goa is the smallest state with just 3702 sq. km. of the geographical area having a good forest cover with 1,225.12 sq km of recorded Government Forest, which is over 33% of the total geographical area of the State.The average annual rainfall in Goa is about 3000 mm, nearly three times higher than the national average. The rainfall change (percentage departure from the 1960-1990 mean) for 1901-2018 shows that mean annual rainfall in Goa has consistently increased over the last 100 years.

 But at the same time, due to the build-up of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, global temperatures are rising. In response to this GHG build-up, the global mean temperatures have already risen by about 1 °C compared to pre-industrial times. The Indian sub-continent is also experiencing rapid warming, particularly since the 1980s.As per IMD’s (2019) analysis, the annual mean temperature during the 1901-2018 period showed an increasing trend of 0.6 °C/100 years. As per IMD's assessment, a significant increasing trend was seen in maximum temperature (1.0°C/100 years) and a relatively lower increasing trend (0.2°C/100 years) in the minimum temperature over India.

Change in mean temperature anomaly in Goa compared to the period 1960-1990 reiterates the conclusion that the mean temperature anomaly in Goa has increased by 1°C in the last century, as per the ‘State Action Plan for Climate Change for The State Of Goa from 2023 to 2033’ report.

Goa also has large tracts of hilly areas nestled in the Western Ghats, which receives a lot of rains, but due to lack of enough check dams and poor rain water harvesting strategy, the water runs off and goes waste. Added to this is rapid urbanisation of Goa, especially in the coastal regions.

So, despite receiving rainfall, which is more than national average, due to poor rain water management, increasing heat due to climate change and growing number of big projects like in Pernem, the pressure on water availability is increasing.So the big question here is, does Goa have enough water from its 16 lakh population, plus the 50 lakh tourist population that comes to the State every year?

S T Nadkarni, ex-Chief Engineer of Water Resources Department (WRD) said, “It is true that Goa receives heavy rainfall. However the topography of the State varies a lot. There are steep slopes in Western Ghats, then there is rolling topography in villages like Bicholim, then there are flat beds of land when you come to the coastal area. All this is within the distance of 60 km. The slopes are so steep that the water pours into the Arabian Sea quickly.” 

“Our rivers have a tidal effect. For example, water of River Mhadei up to Ganjem, covering almost 35 km distance, is saline. Same is the case with Tiracol, where the river’s stretch along Goa border has saline water. Such water is not economically feasible to turn into drinking water,” Nadkarni said.

Secondly, Goa’s hydro geology is such that migration of groundwater takes place very fast, thanks to lateritic strata. This is why we face water shortage by the time it’s April and May.“If you notice, the water could be traced underground just after one to two meters after monsoon, whereas before monsoon one has to dig up to 8-9 meters.“In short, the water goes into the ocean through the riverine system very fast. Take some quantity of water and if you store it in the Western Ghats section, the area required is less but same isn’t the case with coastal areas. These are some of the main constraints,” he said.

In 1999, WRD had drafted a master plan to check the sites feasible for storage of water. Unless there is storage of water, the same can’t be supplied to the coastal areas. Including Tillari, there are three major dams and four smaller ones.

“I’ve heard that under the PM's scheme as well as the CM's scheme of Swayampurna Goa, the ponds and lakes in the State will be revived. In the long run that will be helpful but we have to also remember that our population is increasing and not to mention the rising tourist footfall,” the former WRD Chief Engineer said.

The Water division of the Public Works Department (PWD) treats and supplies water. Where does Goa stand in comparison with the national average in terms of water usage?

Anand Wachasunder, ex- Principal Chief Engineer (PCE), PWD said that for rural areas, it is 40 litres per capita per day (LCPD). For Urban areas, without sewerage system is 70 LCPD and urban areas with sewerage system, is 135 LCPD. This is the norm set by the Government of India.“Goa fares better in comparison. The State has the total treatment capacity of 612 MLD of water and the population currently stands at 19 lakh. Industrial demand is hardly five percent and the rest of the 95 percent is for domestic purposes. In 2000, we had drawn the master plan considering the requirement by the year 2025 and we had kept the target of 599 MLD. So we have already met our target before the deadline,” Wachasunder said.

 “But once the consumption shifted to tap water, people found it more convenient and the usage of traditional water sources slowly ceased. But compared to the national average our situation is much better. There also has to be awareness in the society regarding judicial use of water,” the former Principal Chief Engineer, PWD said.

The PWD has plans to supply 24/7 water to people, but sometimes, the consumption of water in certain sections of the society is much higher than others, which creates imbalance.For example, Savordem and Margao have a water supply of almost 20 hours since it’s near to Salaulim dam, while Vasco being at the tail- end of the supply line, receives much less water.Is it possible with technology to allocate water as per individual requirement in a household of say, four members?Wachasunder said that there are indirect methods to do, one of which is public awareness.“Now as per the study, 40 LCPD water is enough for one person for all his daily requirements. Due to urbanisation, the unnecessary requirements have increased. We have to understand that the more water we use, the more waste water will be for treatment, which is very difficult. Waste treatment is expensive and hence not given much priority,” Wachasunder said.

 “If you look at the tariff structure, we sell 1 litre for 3.50 paise while one mineral water bottle costs Rs 20. There is a volumetric tariff and telescopic tariff. The water tariff in Goa is very low, due to which there is excessive consumption. The water tariff needs should be higher to deter people from wasting water,” he said.

It is very pertinent to note that some people are consuming way more water than the others. Similar situation has arisen in Pernem. What is the reason behind this?

“Water is life and there is no future without it. If we look at Pernem, in the last 4-5 months, the issue of water scarcity has become extremely severe. Chandel water treatment plant was started to quench the thirst of Pernem, but the situation hasn’t changed,”Bharat Bagkar, President Pedne taluka Nagrik Samiti said.

“People from villages in Pernem are often taking out protest marches, demanding for water. Water is there in the treatment plants, but the question is why is it not reaching people? In my opinion, the majority of the water is diverted towards the newly operational airport at Mopa,” Bagkar said.

According to him, even the Tillri Irrigation Canal and other small pipes which were installed so that the fields in the taluka could get water, are being removed.“They’re doing so because big projects are going to come here. A casino company has bought 4 lakh sq meters of land to build an entertainment city. I got to know because it’s in my neighbourhood. One pump draws 100 litres per second and there are four pumps which work 24/7. Imagine how much water that goes to Mopa,” he said.They started another project on Bailpar river in Bailpar village and people were told that this was for the benefit of farmers. The minister too had come there, but wasn’t able to answer any of the questions posed by locals.

“The project is on the verge of completion and the water will be poured into the canal and supplied to Mopa. In short, more than half of the water goes to the airport. Then you go to Dhargal, where AYUSH hospital has been built. They literally put a hole in the main pipeline right in front of our eyes to divert the water to the hospital,” he added.

Thirdly, the coastal villages in Pernem such as Mandrem, Morjim have a lot of hotels which require an abundance of water.

“If the water is supplied to Morjim, then why are locals taking out protest marches? You don’t see hotel owners from Morjim protesting over this. I openly accuse the distribution system of conniving with the hoteliers lobby. These hotels have lawns and gardens where thousands of litres of water get used without any problem,” Bagkar said.

“I have doubts over the government’s intention itself. The system is faulty. While on one hand the needy continue to wait for water, on the other hand, those having government patronage, don’t face any issue,” he lamented.

Sattari taluka is nature rich and receives heavy rainfall in the State. A picture was created such that the taluka never faces water shortage and on the other hand some videos on social media went viral where people were waiting with barrels for the water tankers to come. What is the actual reality? Is there water scarcity in Sattari? If yes, then what are the possible reasons?

Activist Advocate Shivaji Dessai said, “Sattari receives second highest rainfall in the State after Sanguem taluka. A few years ago, one of my friends died after being hit by a tanker. We needed some evidence, so we filed an RTI with PWD to find out who is responsible for supplying water.”

There are 70-77 villages in Sattari, 12 panchayats and one municipality.

“Through RTI, we received shocking information that 21 villages were supplied water through tankers. It was shocking because Sattari is constantly ranked high in terms of rainfall received and yet, the villages here were being supplied water through tankers,” Adv Dessai said.

It’s not that there is not enough water in Sattari, but there is no planning whatsoever, he alleged.

“The sources of water are in the forest areas, which have to be identified. The government should decide whether this water can be stored in smaller reservoirs or not. My village of Bramha Karmali never dries up and yet, unfortunately there are taps in every household,” the activist said.

He said that the concept of water conservation should be implemented in the villages.“Some of the public representatives from Sattari made statements like tanker mafias are responsible for the scarcity. The so-called representatives have to first scout the forests of Sattari to understand the region,” he said.

According to Adv Dessai, simply blaming the government workers won’t solve the problem.

 “In 2009, we were fighting against illegal mines of Dhaave, as we feared that it would destroy the natural sources of water in the village,” he said.

The activist added that the Environment Impact Assessment report and mining management plan had stated that there are no water reservoirs in Nagargao panchayat area.

“But when we filed an RTI with the concerned department, it stated that Nagargao has ample natural water sources. However, just having these resources is not enough if they’re not going to be utilised properly,” he said.Dessai added that the issue of water is going to get more intense in the coming years, so much so that, at least one MLA will lose his seat only due to the water issue.“I personally know a lot of officers in WRD who want to do good work but there are no policies in place,” he said.

Now, the next important question that arises is what is needed to be done to ensure water security for the future?

Responding to this important question, former Chief Engineer of WRD Nadkarni said that WRD’s responsibility is to treat unpotable water fit for human consumption by treating it and then supply it further. There are many bandharas on the Mhadei River.

“There is no shortage of water. But I feel the problem is with distribution and management. So whatever Adv Desai had said makes sense. With the current treatment capacity, it is possible to supply 24/7 to the entire Goa’s population. But there are issues with the management,” he said.

“Now, we cannot blame just one entity. Whenever we design the water network with the Hardy Cross method, at every point the amount of discharge is decided. However due to multiple alternations in the network plan, the estimate increases,” Nadkarni said.

The Hardy Cross method is an application of continuity of flow and continuity of potential to iteratively solve for flows in a pipe network. In the case of pipe flow, conservation of flow means that the flow in is equal to the flow out at each junction in the pipe.

He said that the main pipeline has to be connected with the balancing reservoir first and then the water should be distributed. That way, there is control over how much water can be disbursed.“However that doesn’t happen. These are some of the things which should be rectified over the years. People also have to change their behaviour. If one drop of water per second gets wasted, then the total count for the whole year becomes 10,000 litres. Imagine the wastage that happens in all the houses,” the former WRD Chief Engineer said.“For example, there are four people staying in a house spread over 100 sq meters. If they save and utilise even a fraction of this rainwater, it goes a long way. As Wachasunder said, the cost of treating water is very high and we are cross-subsidising it by charging more for the industries. Unless people come to know the real cost of water they’ll not try to save it,” he said.“We have not faced a drought till now because we receive good rainfall. We have to think how we are going to battle the situation if there is a drought in the future,” Nadkarni added.There is a lot of gap between the quantity of treated water and the amount of water that actually reaches the customers. It’s called Non-revenue Water or NRW. What are the ways to reduce this gap?

Ex- Principal Chief Engineer of PWD Wachasunder said that official figures say that currently the NRW stands at 40%. The mentality is such that if there is leakage at someone’s house, instead of getting a plumber and fixing it, the person thinks it would be cheaper to let the water leak.“Plumbing work costs more than paying the water bill as tariff structure is cheap here. This mentality has to change. The pipelines and the water meter belong to the PWD and internal lines are owned by the house owner. We always suggest the consumers to change their pipes from time to time,” Wachasunder said.

Then it means that the government doesn’t know where the 40% of water is going...

“Non-working metres, illegal connections, illegal drawers, leaking valves and pipes are some of the reasons. The mechanical meters in due course of time, become slower and billing is affected due to such non-working meters. That’s why currently digital meters are used which are a bit costly and are expected to be replaced every five years,” he said.

If Geographical Information System (GIS) based study is undertaken and meters are digitised then the reading could be done from the office itself.“This could be done with the advanced available technology. But for that everyone should be willing to bear the cost as new technology does not come cheap,” Wachasunder said.

According to Nadkarni, 10-20% loss of water through the pipes is normal. There is friction in pipes and causes breaches with passage of time.“What can be done is with the help of Artificial Intelligence technology such as Real Time Data Acquisition System or RTDAS, one can track the flow of water till the end of the line,” he said.

So, what should be the way out to resolve the water issue of Pernem?

Bharat Bagkar said that there is a need to frame a proper water policy, particularly for Pernem.“Taps are a recent addition, but Pernem locals always relied on natural sources of water such as springs and nullahs. Such traditional practices should be revived and encouraged. A survey regarding wells should be undertaken and work of desilting them should be initiated,” Bagkar said.

“It’s a common sense,” Advocate Shivaji Dessai said. “Where does the tap water come from? It comes from springs and rivers. To preserve these natural reservoirs, a proper conservation policy has to be drawn,” he said.

Another angle is that constructions are taking place rampantly everywhere and to satisfy their water needs, people are just blindly digging borewells. What do you think about it?

“There’s no planning whatsoever. We have to think of the next ten years. In my village of Bramha Karmali, there is a unique type of bush trees spread all over. The village is known for numerous natural water sources which never dry up. It’s later we realised that these bushes were responsible for keeping the water sources flowing throughout the year,” Advocate Dessai said.

“We have to preserve these natural sources. I appeal to the government to take officers into confidence as well as gram sabhas and draw a long-term plan,” he said.

Bharat Bagkar added by saying, “The government should also frame rules and regulations to prevent destruction of existing traditional water resources. Wells in Morjim and Mandrem are filled up by business owners to construct new establishments. Rules should be introduced to prevent traders from destroying such water sources.”Dessai said that in Advai case, the High Court had stated that mining can’t be operated within 50 meters from the river line.Nadkarni said that there is a water policy of Centre as well as the State.“But as Dessai said, each and every panchayat should be notified and awareness should be brought regarding local water sources. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) should be exercised in each and every village. The authorities after drafting the policy should put it on the website and invite comments and suggestions from people and panchayats,” he said.

Wachasunder too emphasised on the need for public participation.“People shouldn’t take water for granted and use it wisely. Reduce, reuse and recycle mantra has to be followed,” he said.Bharat Bagkar said that also there is no coordination between the government departments. Roads are dug up right after hotmixing. This has become a daily phenomenon.Going ahead, there will be multiple factors that will be impacting the fresh water availability scenario in Goa. Population is increasing. But along with it, there is also increased heat in Goa due to climate change, which will lead to drying up of the natural water sources. The conditions going ahead will be getting tougher and not easier.

Keeping these scenarios in mind, it is important that the government focuses on water distribution management, rain water harvesting, checking of filling traditional water resources like wells and nullas along with having a sound water policy. There are enough ways to do it. Only political will is required.


Idhar Udhar