All Goa Fishermen Union general secretary Olencio Simoes cautioned Chief Minister Monohar Parrikar not to go ahead with the memorandum of understanding on Mandovi, Zuari, Mapusa, Chapora, Sal and Cumbharjua rivers between Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), the Goa government and Mormugao Port Trust (MPT).
He said the tripartite agreement is unconstitutional as fishermen of Goa are the natural stakeholders of the rivers of Goa as they are been carrying out fishing activities for several centuries but the government has not taken the fishermen nor the fishermen’s union in confidence.
Nationalization of Mandovi, Zuari, Mapusa, Chapora, Sal and Cumbharjua rivers will not help Goa in any form but will only further cause destruction of Goa as almost 410 km of rivers will be dredged and thereafter to maintain the channel annual dredging will take place.
He said the present navigational channel of the rivers have natural depth and therefore was suitable for navigation but have never been dredged since existence but today the government is planning to do capital dredging so that they can bring in large vessels to transport large cargo mainly comprising of coal.
Olencio said that large scale capital dredging of almost 410 km of Goans rivers will completely destroy the ecology of the river as several million lakhs cubic meters of silt will be dredged annually to maintain the draft of the navigational channel. This is a high price to pay for the transport of cargo mainly comprising coal.
Future the width of most rivers are hardly 500 to 800 meter in which at least 280 mt will be occupied by the new navigational channel. Fishermen will be barred from fishing in this entire length of 410 km.
Agnelo Rodrigues President All Goa Fishermen Union said that dredging will create disturbance to aquatic ecosystems. The soil deposits in any water-body have a certain pre-disposed composition. Through dredging this composition will be altered and the existing habitat of creatures and organisms that depend on the original composition of the soil will die out due to the changes caused.
The turbidity of the soil under the water also changes because of this alteration in the underwater soil composition. This poses problems by way of creation of newer and harmful organisms, transferring of unwanted organisms to other parts in the water-body leading to a wider spread of contamination and organic processes by way of release of extra and unwanted nutrients. The spreading of these contaminants will affect marine ecology adversely leading to loss of certain species of marine life.
Removing river bank soils disturbs the habitat of river bank fauna such as otters and this will lead to change chemical composition of the water. This will only destroy the fishermen and will deprive them of their livelihood. It will destroy hundreds of species of fish, amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and thereby endangering all the scheduled species listed under the Indian Wildlife (Protection Act),1972. Also this will amount to complete CRZ violation as Mangroves will be cut or destroyed due to dredging along with the destruction of corals and coral reefs, turtle nesting grounds, horse shoe crabs habitats, sea grass beds, mudflats, nesting grounds of birds etc.
This dredging will led to collapsing of river beds and thereby by causing floods in the riverine villages.
Stating further that nationalization of our rivers will displace 47 inland fishing villages where thousands of fishermen will be deprived of their right to livelihood.
Demands of the All-Goa Fishermen’s Union: