Tuesday 23 April 2024

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Society | Environment

Three legislations for water management


Goa is considering at least three new legislations to regulate scarce water resources and to prevent damage and pollution being caused to ground water level, especially due to mining activity in the hinterland and tourism in the coastal belt, for the last four decades.

As Goa's nine river basins comprise of hardly 6.6 per cent of the total basin area of the west from Tapi in Gujarat to Tadri in Karnataka identified at national level, the tiny state has decided to have its own water policy rather than adopting the national water policy.

"Goa to a large extent is hydrologically land-locked since six of its rivers originate and flow within the state boundaries while two originate from Maharashtra and one from Karnataka", states irrigation minister Ramakant Khalap while justifying its own water policy.

While adopting the state water policy, the state government has also decided to set up Water Resources Control Board to advise the government on inter-state water matters, approve water development plans and monitor water policy implementation programmes.

Goa is the only state where mining activity of mineral ore is still being controlled by handful of private business houses, which also control the economic and political agencies here - directly or indirectly. The mining pollution has thus remained an unattended problem, causing severe damage to the tourist state's ecological structure.

The policy thus proposes legislations like comprehensive pollution control act as well as a separate state legislation to prevent damage caused due to mining activity outside the mining lease areas, since the lease area is covered under the central act.

While 65,000 hectares of forest land is being exploited for the mining activity here since 1960, over 800 hectares of the hinterland area is also being filled with dumps of mining rejects, causing severe damage to the western ghat region.

It has not only affected cultivable land like rice fields, coconut groves, arecanut gardens, sweet water fish and silting of inland waterways, but even the acquifer flow is affected wherever mine pits have gone deep.

In fact Goans frequently get red muddy water through taps as filters of both Opa and Selaulim water supply projects get choked with highly pollutant water coming down from the mines. "Waters of these rivers are polluted both chemically and bacteriological below surface", states policy document.

While dealing firmly with this pollution henceforth, the policy also proposes to tap source of water supply from high level of river basin where there are no mines, industries or large human habitation, by even shifting water purification plants there.

Besides this, the policy also plans to regulate ground water extraction through yet another legislation as the uncontrolled activity of digging bore and tube wells has caused salinity incursions as well as drying up of neighbouring household wells.

The problem is rampant in the coastal belt where star hotels as well as haphazard construction activity has extensively destroyed the natural water source systems. The policy also takes serious view of shore erosion and suggests protection measures as it threatens large part of Goan population as well as the tourism industry.

While listing out several short-term and long-term water management strategies, the policy for the next 50 years also proposes to open up 250 kms of inland waterways for water transport, besides exploiting its potential for inland fisheries as well as to create aquatic sports facilities.

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