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Overgrown water hyacinth in the River Sal at Kharebandh

Sewage discharge a major concern during River Sal clean-up

 

BY JOAO SOUsA M | NT

SINQUETIM : While politicos have come forward to infuse life into the River Sal with the dredging commencing from Sinquetim, there lies a long battle ahead before the river returns to its original best.

The task will not be easy, as tough decisions will have to be taken in the days to come.

Minister for Fisheries Avertano Furtado, who himself has grown up with fond memories of the river, has seen the river condition deteriorating over the years.

At present, the focus is on the stretch of river from Khareband to Varca bridge, the dredging of which is expected to be completed by May end; however, with the elections being round the corner, the politicians will have to bite the bullet and put political differences aside and come together if they have to stop pollution right at the source.

The river  passes across 11 villages. The focus remains on thousands of liters of untreated sewage from Margao and Fatorda being discharged into the river; however, the tributaries of the river, which flow through hinterland Salcete, are often ignored and remain a major source of pollution as illegal housing colonies directly release sewage into the nullahs and storm water drains, which eventually meet them.

Illegal houses and scrapyards at Davorlim, Rumdamol, Aquem Baixo and Dramapur along the eastern tributaries of the river are equal contributors to river pollution, and a recent study carried out by the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) points to it.

The study has found high levels of coliform and e-coli in the mid-stream in the tributary which connects the river at Jaknibandh.

Analysis of water samples collected in April last from Jaknibandh has revealed high levels of fecal coliform with readings as high as 13000 MPN per 100 ml.

The analysis has also found oil, grease and suspended solid traces in the water discharged into the river from illegal scrapyards, godowns and illegal houses which have no sanitation facilities.

Avertano, speaking to this daily, said, “We are committed to plug all direct sources of discharge of raw sewage into the river. The sewage treatment plant is expected to become operational by April-May and will address a large portion of the problem. Those polluting the river will not be spared, not even the starred hotels.”

The river tributaries have turned into garbage dumps, and the worst is the case of the tributary passing through Benduxem, Dongorim, with the authorities turning a deaf ear to the concerns raised by the residents.

Russell Coutinho informed that the people living in rented premises dump their garbage into the river which has resulted in water stagnation.

Countinho said that the residents have raised the matter before the authorities including the panchayat and the health department but to no avail.

That is not all, even sewage is discharged into the river, which poses a direct threat to the fresh water wells located along the river banks, he added.

He further said that the continuous dumping of garbage is resulting in the degradation of the river water ecosystem including destruction of aquatic plants.

Interestingly, the absence of sewerage treatment plant in neighbouring  Velim and Benaulim constituencies defeats the purpose of cleaning the river as untreated sewage will continue to be discharged into the river.

A random survey carried out by this daily has revealed that sewage from many of the  housing complexes, which even though have sewerage treatment plants for treating the generated sewage, finds its way into storm water drains and water bodies as the plants are lying unutilised.

A security guard at one such complex at Benaulim, requesting anonymity, informed that the complex has a sewerage treatment plant but it has not been operated even though a month has gone by after the completion of the complex.

He said that the sewage is collected in underground tanks and later disposed of, however, could not give details as to how it is done.

Similarly, starred hotels along the Cavelossim-Colva belt too have time and again been accused of directly releasing sewage into the river.

Local fishermen from Betul have charged the hotels, especially, from Cavelossim of directly discharging  sewage into the river.

“They release the sewage under the cover of darkness, and the smell emanated during that time is unbearable, and it is just impossible for us to go into the river waters as we develop rash all over the body when we come in contact with the river water,” they said.

At present, the proposal for a sewerage treatment plant for the Benaulim constituency is in the pipeline with the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) just handing over a stretch of land at Colva for the proposed plant while no such plant will be set up in the Velim constituency in the immediate future.

A fisherman, Inacio Fernandes, informed that the water of river Sal has been totally contaminated and frequent discharge of raw sewerage has robbed the traditional fishermen, who used to depend on harvesting and sale of tisreo, mussels etc, of their livelihood as the water causes rash and itching.

Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) R Pachauri said that the government needs to find a way to plug all river polluting sources, adding till such time, the dredging of the river will only reduce the concentration levels of the pollutants, and  will not solve the actual problem.

 

PEOPLE’S PULSE

Sewage discharged into the river poses a direct threat to the fresh water wells located along the banks of the river. The continuous dumping of garbage is resulting in the degradation of the river ecosystem including  destruction of aquatic plants”

Russell Coutinho, Navelim resident

 

The water of river Sal has been totally contaminated, and frequent discharge of raw sewerage has robbed the traditional fishermen, who used to depend on harvesting and sale of tisreo, mussels etc, of their livelihood as the water causes rash and itching”

Inacio Fernandes, A fisherman

 

The hotels, particularly, from Cavelossim directly discharge  sewage into the river under the cover of darkness, and the smell emanated at that time is unbearable, and it is just impossible for us to go into the river waters as we develop rash all over the body when we come in contact with the river water”

Betul fishermen

 

OFFICIALS SPEAK

We are committed to plug all direct sources of discharge of raw sewage into the river. The sewage treatment plant is expected to become operational by April-May and will address a large portion of the problem. Those polluting the river will not be spared, not even the starred hotels”

Avertano Furtado, Navelim MLA

 

I had placed a proposal for sewerage treatment plant in the Velim constituency during the tenure of former chief minister  Manohar Parrikar, however, the project has been kept on hold by the government till such time that the ongoing works are completed”

Benjamin Silva, Velim MLA

 

The government needs to find a way to plug all river polluting sources. Till such time, the dredging of the river will only reduce the concentration levels of the pollutants, and  will not solve the actual problem”

R Pachauri, Director General of TERI

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