Wednesday 3 October 2018

Part 2 : MPT recipe for quick end to Zuari river fishery

Two marina projects are actively being pursued in Zuari river since October 2010. Murmagoa Port Trust (MPT) has leased out river bed. 1,00,000 sq. mts on southern bank to Kargwal Constructions pvt ltd from Mumbai near Nauxim village. And another 1,00,000 sq. mts of riverbed at Southern bank of Zuari near Sancoale village. Lease agreements were signed without consulting fishermen carrying on fishing in Zuari river nor their existence is recorded anywhere in any of the lease deeds.  According to documents submitted for CRZ clearances both projects will need dredging of 40,000 sq mts each. To add to the dredging woes of Zuari Declaration of this river as a National Waterway calls for wholesale dredging promoted by mining companies who wants their barges to navigate in seamless manner without any bottlenecks.  This EIA is not sufficient for dredging. What is required is a comprehensive combined EIA to include impacts on Zuari River due to all dredging from MPT, dredging due to two marinas and dredging due to declaration of Zuari river as National waterway. This EIA does not even mention this reality of collateral damages.

Information revealed in this EIA report of this October 05, 2018 Public Hearing in Chicalim Aiport Road is telling of what could happen to Zuari due to dredging. On Page 123 it states "Caboraj/Rocky inter tidal and substantial habitats between Caboraj-Dona Paula-Siridao have high sea weed abundance and diversity. Over 90 Seaweed species are reported from the area with higher biomass. Increase in sedimentation during dredging may pose significant harm to the distribution of Seaweeds. Generally the destruction of Seaweed also results in bio-diversity and thus results in resource depletion." The question now arises: Is resource depletion an economic development that is anticipated on page 136 under para 4.9.2?

The only place in this entire EIA report there is only once exhibition of caution to dredging. On page 130 under para 4.5.1 it states "Dredging and associated activities should be avoided during the notified fish breeding season (June-July) which is considered as egg lying and larval recruitment season." This gives a picture that there us some sensitivity to fish breeding phenomena in Zuari. This however is questionable as no calendar of specie wise breeding time table for various species of fish is indicated. So it is assumed that all variety of fish that comes into Zuari breeds during June - July. According to noted marine biologist of India Divya Karnad different species has different breeding season besides June - July. All the 24 months of the year are part of fish species' breeding time table. In Zuari river the count for number of species has touched 214, far more than number provided in EIA on Page 122 at figure 3.22 placing the number to 186 aquatic species. Specie counting initiative is a joint collaborative venture between scientific community and Zuari bank fishing community. The EIA report has been insensitive to this reality of Zauri river as result exhibited concern for no dredging in June - July does not hold any water. The genuine concern for breeding season of fish would mean no dredging at all of Zuari river bed.

There seems to be an attempt to cover up anticipated damage. Page 130 under para 4.5.1 asserts "changes in community structures and population alteration expected but temporary and irrelevant to over all zooplankton population of coastal system of Zuari Estuary." This assertion is made without providing any basis and hence it is only wishful in character.

There is a contentious issue with regard to dredging at MPT. Page 31 states "Out of total dredge material about 25% is considered to be suitable for reclamation. The dredging quantity is about 1,00,000 meter square. The balance dredged material will have to be disposed of in the designated spoil ground to be earmarked by Mormugao Port." There is complete silence as to after reclamation of  Zuari portion which are the likely areas that will be flooded due to displacement of water. Why spoil ground has not been earmarked by MPT before EIA report? Will this disposal be carried on near Ecologically Sensitive Area at Grande Island as per permissions of GCZMA of 14/11/2017 to MPT?

The way one sentence is constructed on page 127 under para 2.3.1 reveals MPT ideology. It states "fishing activities within Vasco Bay is one of the major limitations for expansion of the Mormugao Port." One may turn around and ask: Is not existence of Mormugao Port a major limitation for fishing activities as it along with Goa Shipyard and Navy has placed numerous restrictions on fisher people at Sea near Vasco?

So Goa will have to combat for at least next two generations if one digest the message of one long sentence on page 25 under para 2.3. It reads "Under Sagarmala Programme, 415 projects at an estimated investment of approximately INR 7.98500 lakh crore have been identified across port modernisation and new port development, port connectivity enhancement, port-linked industrialization and coastal community development for a phase wise implementation over the period 2015 - 2035." The the analysis here and in part 1 of this article it comes very clear that this sagarmala programme is ecologically not only insensitive but actively hostile and needs to be shelved at once.

There is a wider recognition on page 59 of EIA under para 3.6 "The Zuari and Mandovi Rivers for an esturine system. They are backbone of Goa's agricultural industry. The estuary has dense mangroves vegetation. The entire mudflats along with mangroves vegetation make region highly productive supporting large number of economically important species." So can this be subjected to risk of constant oil spills? It is clear that it is ecology that support economy. Species are ecologically evolved irrespective of what value humans attribute to them.

There is very bad news for fishing on page 127 under para 4.4.1 "Disturbance from construction activities may cause displacement of fishery resources & other mobile bottom biota may reduce fishery resources. Page 128 under para 4.4.2 indicate unacceptable risk "ships that could be source of water pollution include bilge water, ballest water, oily wastes, sewage, garbage and other resideus from ship. Spills of oil, fuel, etc can also be the source of pollution.

Mitigation measures mentioned in EIA are not full proof to avoid collapse of Zuari Fisheries.

Sebastiao Rodrigues

Mobile: 9923336347