JOAO SOUSA M | NT
Once the heart of salt-making in Goa, saltpans in Salcete taluka are on the verge of extinction as production has dropped drastically over the years.
Ironically, the water resource department has no statistical data on the saltpans in Salcete taluka. The department does not have any record as how many saltpans have been functional or how many have been forsaken by saltpan farmers over the years.
Inquiries in rural Salcete have pointed at a grim picture: production of salt through the traditional method has dropped drastically owing to various factors.
Nearly 80 per cent of the saltpans have been abandoned by saltpan farmers; some of the saltpans have been rendered unfit due to widespread pollution of Sal river.
The dearth of manpower, the pollution of Sal river and the declining profits have forced many families to give up salt production.
Peter Fernandes from Chinchinim, who has been into salt-making for decades, said that there were nearly 14 saltpans around Sucaldem. However, over the years practically all saltpans have been abandoned by the saltpan farmers.
The saltpan farmers used to extract salt from October to May and would fall back upon catching prawns and fish during the monsoon months. However, over the years situation has changed and many families have given up due to declining demand for the salt harvested from saltpans.
The demand for the traditional salt dropped drastically as sale of iodized salt rose phenomenally. At the same time, rising pollution in Sal river, which had been a feeder water body for the saltpans, discouraged hundreds of families to either give up salt-making or to switch over to prawn culture.
Piedade Fernandes (69), a saltpan farmer, recalled: “My grandfather and my father used to extract salt from the saltpans. There used to be great demand for the traditional salt, as landlords would use it for coconut trees and other fruit-bearing trees. However, once real estate started booming in late 1990s the demand for local salt started coming down.”
Many families gave up the traditional occupation as the youth started taking up other professions, she said.
Throwing more light on the decline of salt-making in Salcete, Joaquim Santano said that a lot of water bodies in the coastal belt were reclaimed making it difficult for the saltpan farmers to extract salt.
Changes in land use affected the saltpans, as also pollution of Sal river, he said.
Most of those extracting the salt were tenants of landowners. Some of the saltpan farmers were asked to stop using the land, upsetting the traditional occupation.