Zuari river polluted by dilapidated barges

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SUDESH BHOSLE | NT

VASCO: Nearly 50 barges which are anchored along the banks of the Zuari from Chicalim to Cortalim are gathering dust for the last three years, due to the closure of the mining industry. Most of the barges which are scrapped have caused pollution in the Zuari rivulet, due to which the traditional fishermen are living a miserable life due to non availability of fish which is a major cause of concern for their survival.

As per information from some of the traditional fishermen, they raised a strong concern over the rise in pollution levels in the Zuari rivulet for the past three years. Speaking to some of the traditional fishermen, they alleged that the Zuari river has a high density of pollution due to the spread of Manganese and mixture of corrosion due to the scrap barges.

A fisherman from Sancoale said, “Despite the anchoring of barges along the Zuari rivulet, there are some people involved in repair and building of barges for the last several years, without obtaining necessary permissions from the local village panchayat bodies and from government departments such as the Goa State Pollution Control Board.”

He disclosed that the high density of pollution in the Zuari river has affected the livelihood of the traditional fishermen. “Hundreds of traditional fishermen in Mormugao taluka who were dependent upon species such as clams (tisreo), mother-of-pearls, oysters (mendeos) etc are living a miserable life due to non availability of the species due to pollution.” added another fisherman from Cortalim. A bar-cum-restaurant owner who operates his business on the outskirts of Chicalim village panchayat said that despite the water pollution, the barges anchored in the Zuari rivulet are creating noise pollution. “The concerned panchayat bodies might have issued permission to the barge owners to anchor their vessels along the Zuari rivulet, but despite the same, people can observe the repairs and building of barge activities going on in full swing, in blatant violation of GSPCB rules.”

When contacted the Cortalim Zilla Panchayat member Antonio Vas said that although the barges are anchored along the Zuari rivulet for lack of business in the past three years, the movie directors have made good use of the dilapidated barges by shooting their films.

“During the last three years, several film shoots have taken place including Hindi, Marathi, Konkani and Kannada films by utilising the scrap barges”, added the bar-cum-restaurant owner.

He however raised his strong concern over the barges lying in a dilapidated condition along the Zuari rivulet. “Majority of the people who belong to the SC/ST communities are in the traditional fishing business for many decades, but due to the pollution in the Zuari river which is basically due to the dilapidated barges has made life difficult for the people  dependent on traditional fishing activities”, informed Vas.

While listening to the plight of the barge owners, they are helpless due to the situation which has been created, following the closure of the mining industry in the state three years ago.

“The barge owners are facing a difficult time which has made us helpless due to the closure of the mining industry”, added a senior barge owner Chandrakant Gawas who is a member of the Goa Barge Owners Association.

He disclosed that the barge owners who were affiliated to the GBOA had an asset of Rs 2,500 to 3,000 crores, but due to the closure of the mining industry, the value of barges have come down to a great extent. “Most of the barges, out of a total of 400 are lying in the Zuari river and their condition is deteriorating. Some of them will have to be scrapped”, stated Gawas.

He said that there are no borrowers for the barges and even the e-auctioning of iron ore cargo is not fruitful. “The export of 30 million tonne cargo could save the barge owners to a certain extent from loans which they have availed from banks”, stated Gawas.

He disclosed that the state government should continue with the debt relief scheme which is expiring on March 31, 2016. “The state government should also pressurise the banks not to harass the barge owners in repaying their debts”, stated Gawas and further opined that the government should opt for a loan from the central government which could benefit the barge owners in repaying their debts.