Monday 27 August 2018

Time for Goa University to defend fish breeding sites in Zuari river

There were all together three purse seine boats captured by Siridao fishermen on Saturday, August 25, 2018 morning. They were fishing in Zuari river within distance of 100 meters from Siridao shore. The legal limits to carry on the fishing for purse seine boats is 500 meters from the shore. They were captured and brought to the shore in Siridao village. 

Local MLA Francisco Silveira came to the site of conflict and stayed there for three hours mediating in conflict. He called in Coastal Police. Fishermen alerted Journalist and few of them visited site. One of the members of Pubic called up Director of Fisheries Vinesh Arlekar and questioned him about the captured purse seine boats. He was ignorant about the incident but promised to send his officers to the site. Then two officers indeed came to the site and witnessed captured purse seine boats. What they recorded is not known so far. More details are awaited on this.

In the meanwhile it has been observed that while illegal purse seine boats were towed to the Siridao shore two trawlers carried on illegal fishing near St. Jacinto Island in Zuari river. Most of the illegal fishing through trawling and purse seine boat enjoys political patronage of the various quarters of the State Government. That is the reason it is going on without any checks neither from Marine Police nor from Fisheries department.

Due to absence of public engagement with fisheries in Goa the situation is deteriorating rapidly. Fish breeding sites are under tremendous attack from illegal fishing by trawlers and purse seine boats. Zuari river is a case in focus. The local fishermen of the Zuari coast from Siridao, Bambolim, Nauxim, Cacra and Odxel are facing threats to their livelihood because of this public apathy. Though People in Goa relish eating fish they are far behind in demonstrating required concern towards threats to fish breeding sites. This is indeed tragic situation and must be changed.

Many of these fishermen especially from Cacra were earlier living comfortably by planting vegetable on land. However installing Goa University on their lands made them to look seawards for survival by fishing with gillnet. In Sea too there are fresh threats to fishing as demonstrated above. Fishermen stands no change of getting jobs promised to them in the University before land was taken over. Currently demanded bribe for the non-teaching jobs such as peons and sweepers has touched nine lakhs rupees according to Sanjay Pereira. People cannot afford to pay that much bribe. In addition posts are filled up according to Political patronage of the ministers and local people who are forced to stop cultivation stands no chance. Total corruption has reigned in.

Goa University, by sheer fact of locating its premises on tribal people’s land, depriving their livelihood, now has responsibility towards these villages. Goa University has to play pro-active role in defending villages of Cacra, Nauxim, Odxel in securing safety to fishing livelihood. Goa University with its so many departments can very easily put this aspect on priority. Vice-Chancellor Varun Sahni has to take important decisions in this regard. Letter from BMM is pending in his office without attention and action. This is not a good sign at all.

Vice-Chancellor of Goa University has to put the issue of various threats faced by fishing communities in Zuari river on priority. This is because fishing is one of the major occupations in Goa more particularly of People that University deprived them of their cultivation land (Nauxim, Cacra, Odxel).  He needs to call the meeting of all the heads of department and all the Principals of affiliated Colleges in Goa and place this issue on the agenda for action to protect fisheries of Goa: livelihood of the fishermen as well as marine ecology of our rivers and Arabian Sea too. Intellectuals cannot shy away from their responsibility. Goa International Centre also occupies tribal land and its leadership too must take up responsibility.

Every month they must visit fishing villages speaking out and engage themselves in empathetic dialogue and let initiatives flow on fishing. Currently in Zuari sewage from various hotels is flowing in Zuari river polluting river, plastic has smoothed river surface making fishing difficult, water sports is threatening fishers, Vedanta barges wants fishers stop fishing in the middle of the river, Coal transportation, damage caused by mining barges, declaration of Goa’s six rivers as National Waterways without public consultations, marinas in Zuari, trawlers and purse seine  boats are causing havoc with their illegal, eco-hostile fishing practices.

BMM Continues efforts at engaging with these fishing villages mentioned above as well as decision makers at Fisheries department has resulted in setting up of Fisheries Defense Study Cell at the Directorate of Fisheries. The engagement has also resulted in commissioning of scientific study in Zuari river “impact of water sports on fishing and marine ecology” with involvement of scientists from various research institutions in based in Goa.

The lesson learned: If one is ready to engage with suffering fishers and fisheries department, initiatives flow.

There are so many social scientist and natural scientists located at Goa University why are they not involved in dialogue with fishermen from Siridao, Bambolim, Nauxim, Cacra and Odxel? What prevents them from doing so? Similarly there are so may students study at Goa University campus doing their Masters and Doctorates, why don’t they visit these villages and show empathy with fishing communities? Currently fishing communities of Goa are in the frontline of defense of Goa’s rivers and Arabian Sea from various intruding threats. Intellectual has to play back up supporting role to help them succeed in their efforts to regenerate ecology, secure livelihoods.

There are several schools located on the banks of rivers, they need to take responsibility and play active role in regenerating ecology and protecting of fish breeding sites.

Sebastiao Rodrigues

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