Thursday 4 December 2014

Fishing conflict in Zuari river rooted in land conflicts on shore

By Sebastian Rodrigues

The clash between traditional fishermen and star hoteliers is rooted in on shores of Zuari river. Number of villages on Zuari bank near Bambolim are occupied historically by ST, OBC people. Yet they do not have legal control over the land that they inhabited and cultivated. From the time of 1972 land survey most of the land of traditional fishermen has been recorded as owned by Brahmins. This is also the case Bambolim, Nauxim villages. Brahmins through the application of educated yet cunning mind has got the land registered in their name even though they do not reside in the villages. Mhamreys, Kamats and Sinaris did this in Nauxim, Bambolim villages and then sold off the land to hoteliers putting ST and OBC people to new confrontational challenges.

However over the past 30 years there has been significant changes vis-à-vis traditional fishermen control over the land. Cacra village on the banks of river zuari were entirely dependent upon agriculture and horticulture. Then Goa University was located on their land. Their cultivation of vegetable stopped though gradually. The problem of livelihood arose in very powerful manner. There was increased pondering as to what to do next. Leadership of the tribal movement in Goa betrayed tribal people of Cacra village and did not promote any resistance to take over their land. This has been terrific betrayal of the tribal people at Cacra.

After pressure on their land and stopping of the cultivation these tribal people turned towards Zuari river for fishing on full time basis. They struggled and picked up the skills necessary for the purpose of fishing. Gradually with no option left at their command they found their destiny tied to Zuari River. Fishing in river and selling fish in Panjim market turned into new occupations of these adivasi people. Men would venture into Zuari river at 3.00 am in morning and return back by 6.00 am. Then sometimes customers would come to Cacra to collect fresh fish or if not women would carry fish to sell in Panjim market. Now if they are deprived of fishing for the sake of water sports in Zuari River then it is going to be terrible blow that is most unlikely to be taken the way Goa University was taken hands down 30 years ago when education was almost non-existent especially amongst ST and OBC people.

Goa University led to the construction of road approaching Cacra. This very road as ably demonstrated by Prabhakar Paddekar turned into source of ruin of the village. It attracted attention to the village from the mining company[1] that wanted to take over and turn the village as mini port for its ships to dock in Zuari river in 1997. Cacra is one of the villages located on the banks of river Zuari from where Prabhakar Padekar hails and is adivasi in terms of ethnicity. He wrote “This old community our ancestors have lived here for centuries. When nothing else existed, not even the road that passes from Bambolim to Donapaula. After liberation you will see that Cacra is loosing more than it is gaining. Due to the development of the University, we have lost our right over the forest which our ancestors cultivated for centuries. We in Cacra do not get public water supply and have no toilets. Yes, we have a road that threatens to bring into Cacra the construction of Dock on our river front. Yes, we have electricity but then while we remain in darkness when the Industries and construction that gets all the electricity they want.[2]This has been the order of marginalization state of people in villages like Cacra and its neighbors. Tensions that this coastal region has been put under can be gauged from Padekar’s writings further “It may be noted that temporary structures, machinery and personnel were first moved into Cacra on may 7th 1998. On Friday 8th may work was started. By the morning of 15th May, Police from Goa Velha Police station arrived to protect the work. On 18th May the villagers requested MLA Ms Victoria Fernandes and Sarpanch Mr. William Gonsalves to intervene and the work was stopped on site.

On 20th May company resumed work with increased police protection. Cacra Nagrik Vikas Samiti protested against the illegal drilling operations. However, Murmugao maritime Ltd (MML), a Fomento Company carried out the work with Police protection.

On 5th June 1998, ‘WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY’ CNVS organized a protest Dharna on the occasion of the World Environment Day to highlight the issue. Over 100 men, women and children and teaching faculty members from Goa University participated in the Dharna in front of the office of North Goa collector. Then they called on the Tiswadi Mamlatdar and North Goa Collector. We discussed in detail the illegal drilling operations and soil testing by MML for the purpose of constructing the Offshore Stockyard and Berth (OSB). Then the CNVS has written letter to the chief Secretary, department of Science, technology and Environment, Panchayat for immediate action on the illegal activity undertaken by MML. The letter received from Marmagao Port Trust (MPT) Deputy Conservator, who disclosed that MML permitted to carry Soil Testing in Zuari river near Bambolim beach. It was stated that the company was asked to get all permissions from the State Government before undertaking the work. It should be noted that Bambolim beach comes under the revenue jurisdictions of Curca-Bambolim-Talaulim and is part of the San Andre constituency.[3]
Even though after protest work is stopped the red board with white writings on display board of Fomentos at the very entrance of the Cacra village is highly revealing. It read “Fomentos: Private Property: Trespassers will be prosecuted” Fomentos is the same company that is involved in open caste mining in Goa for iron ore and manganese is facing stiff resistance in hinterland Goa including with the use of explosives that are banned by law.
In addition to sinking of ore barges in Zuari river and fishing by mechanized boats also add up to the disturbances of smooth sailing of boats of traditional fishermen. Sinking of barge in Zuari river covered up the space where fishermen used to dive to harvest Oysters. Sinking of barges takes place for the reason of claiming of insurance. This is an additional incursion on fishing activities of traditional fishermen next only to the bigger incursions by mechanized fishing trawlers in Zuari river.

It is in this state of affairs that further land got sold off especially in Nauxi, Bambolim area where the epicenter of current tension in Zuari river is located – Grand Hyatt Hotel.

[1]                      Fomentos
[2]                      Padekar, Prabhakar (2003) Turmoil and struggle of a village, 

[3]                      ibid

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