Government and people together must save the state’s water bodies
The state government has decided to restore four of the nine polluted lakes in the state– Carambolim, Saipem, Batim and Arambol– at a cost of Rs 13 crore, with the work scheduled to be completed by May 2021. The lakes were suffering constant damage, but no effective steps were taken. The government decision came in the wake of a directive by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), asking them to ensure identification, protection and restoration of water bodies across the country. It was in pursuance of that directive that the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) informed the CPCB that all the identified lakes have been geo-tagged. An earlier report in 2018 had revealed that besides these four lakes, the lakes at Mayem, Selaulim, Anjunem, Raia and Curtorim were also polluted. The GSPCB has informed the national pollution control board that the state government will take up several works for restoration of the lakes. Among the works proposed are restoration of natural drains, interception and diversion of sewage or industrial effluent from drain to the nearby existing treatment plant or upcoming treatment plant, silt control measures and so on.
Though the states were directed to inform the steps taken by them to conserve and restore water bodies by August 31, Goa failed to comply. It was only after a reminder sent on October 13 that the authorities rushed the report to the CPCB. The Goa State Wetland Authority has sought help from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) identification of wetlands in the state. The state’s move to identify wetlands came in wake of National Green Tribunal’s order directing the government to identify additional wetlands in Goa and protect wetlands of less than five hectares under the existing Wetlands Act and Rules within three months and submit a report before it. The government had said that during the first meeting of Goa State Wetland Authority in 2016, as many as 385 wetlands which have an area more than 5 hectares were delineated. Goa also has 167 wetlands of an area of less than 2.25 hectares. Accordingly ground truthing and sampling of 35 water bodies identified by GSWA were being considered as priority areas for protection and conservation.
Many of the lakes in the state serve multiple purposes, besides being tourist attractions. The once pristine lakes have borne the brunt of increased human activities and their neglect by the local and state authorities. While most people have been reluctant to fight for protection of water bodies in the state, people of St Cruz waged a battle for years to protect the Bondvol Lake. The battle was won recently after the government notified the waterbody as a wetland. While some people have been fighting to save the lakes and other water bodies from destruction due to human and industrial activities around them others have been contributing factors for their appalling state. A study by the GSPCB has found that the major cause of pollution of the lakes was domestic organic waste. The study also has revealed that domestic organic waste was the main source of the taste and odour-producing pollutants released during biodegradation. It has also been found that organic pollutants originate from domestic sewage (raw or treated), urban run-off, industrial (trade) effluents and farm waste.
Till the government laid pipelines to supply water for human consumption, some decades ago, these water bodies along with wells served as the main source of water supply for the people of the state. The people took special interest in ensuring that they were not polluted but the advent of piped water led people to neglect the upkeep of these water bodies. The people of the state cannot afford to ignore the importance of the water bodies. It should be the endeavour of the locals and the government to ensure that not only these water bodies are saved from pollutants but they are also beautified as they are tourist attractions and serve as second homes for migrating birds, which add to tourist attraction. Saving the water bodies from degradation should be the collective effort of the people, the local authorities and the state government.