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Goa Staring At Drought And Flash Floods

Nandkumar M Kamat

The model code of conduct (MCC) may be over. There is a government in Goa but people feel no governance. The senior officers are neither accessible, approachable or sensitive and responsive to public suggestions for doing public good. Most of them are never seen in the field interacting directly with the people. They seem to be pleased to leave all the decisions to the ministers. The ministers are in a holiday mood and some consider the cabinet like a club with a five-year membership.

The new CM is not easily accessible and is still learning the ropes of the administration. Instead of harping again and again on mining issues he needs to be sensitive to immediate tasks like GST evasion and gross under collection as compared to state GSDP,  plugging of revenue leakages, preparing a convincing brief for forthcoming visit of 15th Finance Commission, clearance of many pending amendments to various bills and tackling the peculiar twin disasters- the predictable drought and the flash floods.

Every five years the state of Goa is held to ransom due to unscientific model code of conduct (MCC) which makes it difficult to undertake regular pre monsoon works. This government has also failed to factor in the MCC and accordingly issue orders for all the pre monsoon works before middle of March. There is none in the government capable of monitoring the state of ecology and economy and despite having the benefit of small geographical area plan in advance at micro and macro level.  It doesn’t seem to matter to cabinet if monsoon last year was deficient and the post monsoon rains failed to replenish the rapidly drying surface and groundwater resources. Mitigative steps were not seen from October 2018 in anticipation of water scarcity this summer. Now Goa is entering the danger zone in age of climate change.

Although Manohar Parrikar popularised the word’ infrastructure’ he failed to add two more words to it “ecologically sustainable” and ignored the creation of impervious surfaces all over Goa. The first test of his legacy bridge ‘Atal Setu’ facing high wind shear in June would show us what precisely he gifted Goa in the name of  “infrastructural development”. People are not permitted to see the report of wind tunnel tests conducted at Chennai. None other than Cortalim MLA Alina is actually experiencing this type of ‘development’ in her constituency where people are scared of manmade flooding. Whole scale earth moving, grandiose cut and fill operations have created the most ideal conditions along Goa’s north south and east west road transportation corridors for unprecedented flash floods.

Now let me unfold the scenarios which Goa government would soon face due to its ill preparedness. The drought has already reached Goa Karnataka border drying up upper reaches of Mahadayi, Ghatprabha, Malprabha and Kali rivers. With increased human interference in their habitats due to illegal quarrying, sand mining and wildfires and only small puddles of water left in Western Ghats streams and with prey dispersed, the thirsty and hungry tigers from Karnataka are rapidly migrating to wildlife sanctuaries in Goa. This is bad news for the state because it is a matter of time before they begin attacking the cattle and the people. The government must know that local microenvironmental factors favouring normal rainfall have changed. The heat budget of local landscape has changed. Natural, normal heat sinks for the moisture bearing clouds to discharge rains lie fragmented along Marmagao to Molem and Mopa to Mashem axis. Forest fragmentation has reduced the orographic effect favouring abundant rainfall. Suddenly we have stopped experiencing pre monsoon showers and  the convective rains. In fact clouds are fruitlessly discharging more rains during the monsoon over the bays and the sea while traversing Goa.

The administration simply watched burning of ancient primary forests on two Paroda hillocks. Instead of mild punitive measures the forest department slaughtered 800 Areca palms at Verlem village distressing the tribals. The ecosensitive Baga hillock was burnt and stripped of precious vegetation cover. Add hundreds of such micro-incidents and you get in small state a macrophenomenon- no more Goa remains the location to experience rhythmic normal monsoon. The drought is staring in our face followed by dangerous bursts of sudden high intensity and erosive rainfall. The first would lead to real water supply crisis in June and later mass failure of agricultural and horticultural operations. The full 1000 mm rainfall in June only wets the upper layers of soil. It is the rainfall in July and August which recharges the groundwater and replenishes the primary and secondary streams feeding all the rivers.

The government would be terrified with the magnitude of impending drought as more days would go rainless. By end of August the situation would appear like a real natural disaster. Tourists may celebrate rainless monsoon but the locals would be impacted by flash floods. Government has not created any storages to create capacitance for impounding high intensity rainfall. The impact of flash flood lasts for just two or three days but the long-term impacts are very serious in terms of spreading of epidemics in a state which has scored lowest on freeing the land from open defecation.

This year due to drought and flash floods Goa would see a meteoric rise in dreaded dengue and Chikungunya infections because even the smallest of puddles breed the vector mosquitoes. Fortunately, most of these developments would take place just before the legislative assembly begins the monsoon session so there would be tremendous pressure on the new Chief Minister and his cabinet to rise to the occasion and perform. But the present situation shows that hundreds of villages are facing serious drinking water crisis and ministers just read the news and do nothing.

Very soon all the MLAs would face the anger of the people affected by droughts and flash floods. For many of them solutions lie in giving self-righteous interviews to TV channels and press reporters and not actually visit the hotspots of the problem, render help, solve the issue and only thereafter talk to media. Next four months would critically test the alliance government, the new CM and his cabinet. The army of officers, departmental heads, engineers may simply isolate itself from the common suffering people leaving the task of crisis management to political leadership while enjoying the free entertainment provided on the situation by the print and electronic media. I would revisit the situation soon when first flood is reported.

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