Friday 31 August 2018

Illegal fishing in Zuari river by trawlers and mini purse seine boats

Date: 27/08/2018


Member of Legislative Assembly
St. Andre Constituency,


Member of Legislative Assembly
ST. Cruz Constituency

Member of Legislative Assembly
Taleigao Constituency

Subject: Illegal fishing in Zuari river by trawlers and mini purse seine boats


During last one week there has been large scale illegal fishing ongoing in Zuari river. We have informed fisheries department over the phone but response has been poor. On August 25, 2018 fishermen captured three mini purse seine boats while fishing in Zuari river. By law this confiscation should have been done by government as per Rule 3 (2) of the Goa, Daman and Diu Fisheries Rules, 1981. However this is left for fishermen to do.

Today morning there were 45 mini purse seine boats till 9.00 am in the morning. There is total collapse of fisheries administration in Zuari river. According to Rule 10(1) of the same rules “No person shall use a net the mesh size whereof is less than 24 mm for catching fish and 20 mm for catching prawns” What is the mesh size of purse seine nets? Far less. How many of them are registered with fisheries department? None.

Goa Government banned trawlers from fishing within 5 kms from the shoreline under section (2)(H) and section 4(1) of Marine Fishing Regulations Act, 1980 on July 09, 1981. Still why there is continues trawling going in Zuari river, often within 200 meters from the shore? This is because Goa Government do not carry on patrolling even though it is supposed to be done under Rule (3)(3) of the above referred rules.

In 2017 Directorate of Fisheries via notification Order no. DF/ENF/ORDER/2016-17, Official Gazette, Series II, No. 41, January 12, delegated powers to take action on illegal fishing to the following:

1.     Deputy Director, Directorate of Fisheries
2.     Superintendent of Fisheries, Directorate of Fisheries
3.     Assistant Superintendent of Fisheries, Directorate of Fisheries
4.     Fisheries Officer, Directorate of Fisheries
5.     Police Inspector
6.     Police Sub-Inspector
7.     Assistant Police Sub-Inspector
8.     Head Constable
9.     Mamlatdar
10.                        Joint Mamlatdar
11.                        Block Development Officer (B.D.O)

You are therefore requested to convene meeting of these officials urgently to in order to stop illegal fishing incidents occurring regularly in Zuari river.

Thanking You,
Yours sincerely,

Sebastiao Rodrigues
Convenor, Goa State

Sanjay Pereira
Convenor, Cacra Unit

Soccorro Braganza
Convenor, Siridao Unit

Sitaram Pereira
Convenor, Odxel Unit

Milind Palkar
Convenor, Nauxim Unit

Ms. Kalpana Diukar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Chandrakant Lotlikar
Secretary, Siridao Unit

Hanuman Dias
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Honu Divkar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Deu Kankonkar
Secretary, Nauxim Unit

Yeshwant Shirvoikar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Manguesh Sawant
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Amir Mardolkar
Co-convenor, Nauxim Unit

Francis Coelho
Co-convenor, Nauxim Unit

Jaya Kuttikar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Jonu Shirvoikar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Ms. Sheila D’mello
Co-convenor, Cacra Unit

Ashok Kukalkar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Ganashyam Diukar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Uttam Martins
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Rohit Hadkonkar
Co-convenor, Bambolim Unit

Sanju Diukar
Co-convenor, Odxel Unit

Chandranath Rosario
Co-convenor, Cacra Unit

Vijay Sawant
Co-convenor, Cacra Unit

Ragunath Sautodkar
Co-convenor, Cacra Unit

Mahadev Andre Rosario
Co-convenor, Nauxim Unit

Laxman Mangueshkar
Co-convenor, Siridao Unit

Copy to:

Director of Fisheries, Panjim, Goa

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

Friday 24 August 2018

Time for Three in Goa Fisheries Department to resign!

There has been huge awareness of threat to health caused by consumption of fish laced with Chemicals like Formalin in particular. This is an extremely good sign that fish consumers are awake and asking questions. However there is a disturbing trend too when it comes to issue of safety of fisheries as well as protection of fish habitats in Goa's waters. It is observed that consumers do not have adequate information and therefore concern on these issues to the extend needed. There is strategic disconnect between fishers and fish consumers. 

Bharat Mukti Morcha, Goa Unit currently also involved is defending fishing habitats in Zuari river in collaboration with local fishers for the past four years after invitation from fishing communities from Odxel, Cacra, Nauxim, Bambolim and Siridao with principle of Empathetic Engagement . Some of the major challenges that needs urgent public attention are listed below.

Illegal Trawling and illegal purse seine fishing deserves focus here. Fishers from the above listed villages on November 15, 2017 were promised 24 hour patrolling by the Goa Fisheries Minister Vinoda Palyenkar and Agriculture Minister Vijay Sardessai in presence of Talegao MLA Jenifer Montserrat at Goa Legislative Assembly. Assurance was also given to increase the fine for illegal fishing by trawlers and purse seine boats from Rs.100/- to Rs.50,000/-. However till date this assurance remains unfulfilled. 

In the meanwhile aggression on Zuari river is as intense as ever as evident from the community monitoring records maintained by the Siridao-Odxel coastal fishers. On 18/08/2018 there were 10 trawlers at 8.00 pm carrying on illegal fishing in Zuari. Three of them very close to Siridao Coast. On 23/08/2018 five trawlers carried on illegal fishing in Zuari river at 6.00 am. On 24/08/2018 around 40 mini purse seine boats carried on illegal fishing in Zuari river at 6.00 am and four trawlers carried on illegal fishing in Zuari river at 8.00 am.

It has been observed by fishing communities of this coast that when telephone calls are made to fisheries department no action is initiated. On the contrary mobile numbers with names of complaining fishers are shared with the offending trawlers and purse seine boat owners who in turn call up fishermen in Zuari who complain and threaten. Due to this flop show at Goa Fisheries Department control room and negligence in installing 24 hours patrolling of Zuari river there is likely situation of law and order problem. Coastal Police too has responsibility to stop illegal fishing but they too are relaxed about it for the reasons best known to them.

The consequence of this situation is severe. Goa's own marine biologist Aaron Lobo has scientifically demonstrated the huge damage that trawlers cause while fishing. He has compared it to the massive razing of forest on land above water. Because of this damage fishermen in Goa and other parts of India organised themselves and late Mathany Saldanha played pivotal role towards this. Purse seine nets catches tiny fish life and threat of fish depletion is severe. By law both trawling and purse seine nets are are banned within five kilometers from the shore.

Fishers in Fisheries department are well aware of the various problems faced by these coastal communities. In case any public member wants evidence then it can be procured by filing RTI application at Fisheries department seeking all the letters received from Bharat Mukti Morcha from 2014 to 2018.

The only serious officer of Goa administration who wanted to help these communities is Govind Jaiswal, IAS who was Secretary (Fisheries) as well as Director. Because of his helpful approach he has been replaced by new Secretary Daulat Hawaldar, IAS. (This decision is taken under pressure from corporate interests linked to waters sports after Jaiswal took up steps initiate study on effects of water sports on fishing and marine ecology). Looking at the daily violations in Zauri river it can be safely concluded that Mr. Halwaldar along with the Director V. Arlekar are incompetent, inefficient and irresponsible as fisheries administration in has witnessed colossal collapse. 

On August 14, 2018 these fishermen were called to the Fisheries Department for a meeting with Fisheries Minister Vinoda Palyenkar, Secretary (Fisheries) Daulat Hawladar, Director of Fisheries Vinesh Arlekar, Deputy Director Smita Muzumdar, Deputy Director C. Velip and Superintendent of Fisheries Chandresh. After listening to the problems expressed by fishers delegation led by Sanjay Pereira Secretary (Fisheries) Daulat Hawaldar assured to make a difference, a break from past. 

Alas! his promise now has proved to be an empty one. Minister of Fisheries Vinoda Palyenkar has lost his daring bearing that his has displayed at the start of his innings as minister and now is merely behaves as a caged rat of the illegal fishing mafia. His performance record that raised hope is turning into trigger of despair. We hardly need such behavior from a minister in Goa. He has facilitated diversion of Mhadei to vested interest in Karnataka in his capacity as Water Resources Minister by planned mismanagement at Mhadei Tribunal, and sold Zuari to illegal trawlers and illegal purse seiners. Situation in Zuari has degraded to the same level as during tenure of Dr. Shamila Monteiro who was removed from her post as director of fisheries. Now all the top leadership of Fisheries department must be thrown out. This includes Vinoda Palyenkar the Minister of Fisheries, Daulat Hawaldar, Secretary (Fisheries) and Director Vinesh Arlekar. All of them are proved irresponsible. Time for all three to resign and go as there is total collapse of administration on Zuari river.

Sebastiao Rodrigues

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Eco-hostile Resolution on Goa Mining

The resolution taken unanimously passed by Goa Legislative Assembly on August 03, 2018 strongly recommending re-starting of mining in Goa is completely eco-hostile act on behalf of all elective representatives in House. However this is no shocker. Mining companies of Goa are known to be funding State and National Political Parties both ruling and opposition, their MLAs are therefore obliged to push ahead the agenda of the mining corporate. Plus several MLAs of Goa are direct and indirect beneficiaries of mining industry with open and covert business links.

Curtorim MLA Reginald Lorenco who had raised public hopes with some dissent to mining, gave in. Cortalim MLA Alina Saldanha who is amongst the most sensitive and skilled having worked with late Mathany Saldanha and functioned as Goa’s Minister for Environment and Forest has betrayed for trees has no votes. Tribal Affairs Minister and Priol MLA Govind Gawde did not bother to have deeper look at the tribal communities’ expression of grievances arising from ecological damage caused by mining industry in Sonshi and Colomba. Their votes signified their co-option to the exploitative system in place.

The resolution to re-start mining in Goa completely exclude any mention to the ecological damage that mining has already caused: amount of water pumped out daily depleting ground water table, amount of forest land diverted for mining purpose, amount of trees cut down or buried alive under mining dumps, the intensity of pollution caused to the paddy fields and rivers.

On the contrary we have witnessed highly objectionable comments from the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who is also Goa’s environment Minister “Just on ground of environmental damage, is it right to stop mining activity?” Goa’s environment Minister has a mindset that is in needs of immediate correction. Can economy flourish by damaging environment? The very first meeting of the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) minutes records that mining is biggest environmental pollution in Goa and barges transporting iron ore causes environmental pollution to Goa’s rivers, and massive public awareness is the need of the hour. When mining has caused such a high level of damage to Goa is it not the duty of the State government to stop mining forever and move people away from dependency on mining?

A month ago Indian Government’s Niti Ayog published study that warned of increasing shortage of fresh water in India. All water pumped out to extract ore in Goa is fresh water. Do any of the MLAs in Goa Legislative Assembly has data on how much ground water is pumped out from the legal and illegal mining pits in Goa ever since mechanization of mining in the decade of 1970s? Do they have information as to how many water bodies like wells in Sirgao has gone dry because of pumping out of ground water from mining pits? Do they have any data on how much of agriculture has been damaged due to flow of mining silt into paddy fields in Sattari, Bicholim, Ponda, Sanguem and Darbandora Talukas? How much unemployment and food insecurity has this created since 1970? It appears from the resolution that MLAs are only elected representatives lack moral courage and vulnerable to swings of cash and bullying.

Latest advertisements in Delhi Print media claim that mining in Goa is sustainable and eco-friendly. The extracted ore has reached shores of China, Japan, Pakistan and other countries as per records published by Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association and Goa’s ore is sustaining these foreign countries. From 1945 Goa’s ore export has contributed immensely in resurrecting Japanese economy shattered by nuclear bombings. From 2000 Goa’s major share of exports went of China. Goa’s exports sustained Japanese and Chinese economies. How mining has sustained Goa’s ecology?

In what way Goa’s mining is eco-friendly? Isn’t it repackaging of mineral farming concept? On the contrary very first minutes of GSPCB proves that mining is an eco-hostile industry causing irreversible damage to Forest, Agriculture, Horticulture and Rivers.

Former Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane, Poriem MLA is worst of all for his claims of not being aware of ecological damage due to mining. He must visit Pissurlem, Sirgao, Cavrem, Bicholim, Lamgao, Colomba, Advalpal, Honda, Sonshi and meet people who are staying and are at the receiving end of the mining industry.

The resolution to re-start mining by modifying Central Government mining laws is eco-hostile decision that will inevitably lead to Goa’s ecocide.

Sebastiao Rodrigues

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Tribute to Diego Francis Rodrigues of Tiracol

Diego Francis Rodrigues from Tiracol died on Monday, July 30, 2018 after a brief illness of three days or so and funeral rites took place on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at St. Anthony’s church, Tiracol with Holy sacrifice of mass. Diego was known to me from 1992 for 25 years. I remember his active presence at several protests in Panjim and other sites in Pernem organized by Jagrut Goenkarachi Fauz (JGF) and Pernem Nagrik Vikas Samiti (PNVS). The protests were against several tourism projects proposed for Pernem coast.

Although we did not cross into Tiracol during our walking expedition and ended in Keri village Diego came to know about it after a day and was active participant in all the subsequent planned protests mainly in Panjim.

In 1993 Diego called me to visit Tiracol in my capacity as Journalist covering Pernem for Herald. I visited him and he shared threats to health faced by entire Tiracol village due to Gastroenteritis epidemic due to pollution caused by Usha Isapat steel plant across Maharashtra border at Redi. He wanted me to publish and this story did get published and authorities did act on in Tiracol people got relief.

For past few decades Diego was often elected unopposed to the Keri Panchayat and even served as a Sarpanch of Keri village Panchayat.

A decade ago when it was proposed to set up Golf Course in Tiracol and Vishwajit Rane moved application for the change in land use Diego again got into active resistence. He organized and networked with several people, petitioned several judicial courts including NGT and malatdar’s court and even scored breakthroughs in number of times putting crucial spokes in the way of Leading Hotels taking control of the village land to construct Golf Course and starred hotel.

At the Funeral several people women and men, educated and uneducated were seen weeping for the love and care of Diego was far wider and deeper than the width and depth of his grave in sandy shore of Tiracol cemetery. It is a rare sight that a lawyer would cry openly for the death of a client and it was witnessed at Diego’s funeral.

It is a rarest of the rare occasion to witness Parish Priest crying bitterly at the grave of the dead Parishioner, yet it was witnessed in Tiracol at Diego’s funeral. It is near impossible that a death of an active citizen be compared to the assassination of the Archbishop of the Catholic Church. Yet Death of Diego was compared to the Assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador in terms of the wide despair the death has caused and yearnings for new crop of leadership to emerge.

Is Archdiocese of Goa ready to nurture this Hope and a Promise? Is Leadership of the Goa Archdiocese ready to address the question of leadership crisis of the Catholic of Goa? Diego Francis Rodrigues was a great leader. He would move alone with piles of paper in his hand traveling in buses or hired bikes or hitch lifts to fulfill his mission tasks. I met him several times on the streets of Panjim moving from one office to another, always resourceful in his sharing although in his sixties.

Diego’s courage was tested in the past decade. It was tested when bouncers were stationed, trees were forcefully cut down and road construction undertaken at the middle of the night in Tiracol. Diego moved official administration and mobilized public support to condemn the predator attack.

Diego was at his courageous best when he confronted then Chief Minister Laximikant Parsekar at the bridge inauguration connecting Keri to Kiranpani just before 2017 Assembly elections. In fact Diego was one of the key persons that was responsible for the historic defeat of Parsekar in Mandrem constituency and victory of Dayanand Sopte. Diego however was upset due to BJP forming government in Goa with Defence Minister of India being sent to Goa as Chief Minister.

Diego confronted Diocesan authorities in 2010 when news broke about sale of Vanxim island. He visited Vanxim to support protesting villagers.

Even though there is so much to write about Diego, key issue of leadership needs immediate attention. Will Catholic Colleges of Goa rise to the occasion to revive AICUF to generate leadership for Justice and Peace among students to steer Goa’s future ahead?

Sebastiao Rodrigues 

(This is an uncensored version of article published in Herald on August 03, 2018)