Goa’s Environment Under Threat

The sight of agricultural lands being destroyed for commercial purposes and construction of concrete structures on that land kills any true Goan. Off late, Goan land is victim to development strategy adopted by the state which is destroying the natural beauty and eco-systems of this serene state. Environmental Activist Mr. Rajendra Kelkar puts across this unsustainable development as, “haphazard and unplanned development by the State.”

About one-third of the total land in Goa falls under forest areas and yields substantial profits. In recent years, however, the pace of degradation has almost doubled due to short-term planning, public indifference, industrialization and rampant urbanization. Goa is one of the luckiest states in India to have extremely favourable climatic conditions for growing certain crops which if cultivated wisely using technological advancements to the fullest and can prove to be an asset for the state Goa also has significant potential for value added agricultural progress.

The coastal plains here are used to grow rice which is the staple food of Goa whereas other areas including the valleys are extremely productive for the cultivation of plantation crop. There was a time when Goa was self sufficient in supply of food grains for the people of the state however now, the Goan economy is strained further with the costs of food grain imports.

While scarcity of skilled labour coupled with the existence of expensive labour is definitely one of the leading problems faced by the agriculture here; this issue can be easily resolved by educating the youth interested in revival of the agriculture lands. Mr. Kelkar further adds, “Many a youth today are interested in agriculture however, the government woos them with white-collar jobs thus making it easier to acquire lands of such people and under ODP (Outline Development Plans) convert this land for commercial purposes as has been observed in Taleigao mostly.”

Lack of technological inputs and non-availability of traditional seeds in the government seed bank are yet other problems faced by the agricultural workers here. The government should however realize that there is tremendous export potential for agricultural products and owing to the favorable climatic conditions here, this potential should be tapped to the fullest. Mr. Kelkar adds, “People need to be educated about how agriculture does produce returns and only then will a common man be interested to utilize his field for strictly agricultural and not other reasons.”

Agricultural lands carry a lot of ecological value too. They are not just natural habitat for a variety of birds but also help maintain micro-climatic conditions. Mr. Nitin S. Sawant, Director, WWF – Goa adds, “Destruction of agricultural lands has a direct effect on the climatic conditions which gives impetus to Global Warming. Hence, these lands need to be maintained.” He further adds that it is because of these agricultural lands that the water table is recharged for the year and hence, they are extremely important.

One of the other major reasons affecting agriculture in Goa is mining. The after effect of mining is siltation on agricultural lands thus rendering them useless. There are cases of mining siltation accumulating on agricultural lands at Mayem village in Bicholim taluka for as much as five metres high. The government should realize that mining can never exist forever and hence, mining shouldn’t be carried out against losses incurred on agriculture. Owing to the direct benefits of mining, the number of people involved in agriculture is declining steadily leading to fertile agricultural lands being left fallow.

It is truly dreadful to see the current state of affairs with respect to agricultural lands in Goa. If continued at this pace, agriculture here which currently contributes to a little over 5% to the GSDP will soon become extinct. The beauty of the state which lies in its farm lands will soon be replaced by concrete, immovable structures and threats from migrants will pose greater dangers to the peaceful Goan people.

On a closing note, Mr. Sawant further adds, “Government is going the unplanned way for development in the state for their selfish motives. The urban parts of Goa are already hit by water scarcity and construction of such concrete structures will strain our water resources and electricity further. Also, such an activity shall result in increase in garbage and sewage disposal issues.”

The government should take corrective measures immediately to resolve these issues and the locals too should vouch and save their lands from the clutches of the government. Schemes like Land Credit System should be publicized and people should be educated about the same for quicker results.

Aaishwari Chouhan

[Image courtesy: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/media/ALeqM5gxaSo0-T7rn0Mwm3WmHfGSEJr8Uw?size=l]