Once considered the economic hub of several villages in South Goa, River Sal is witnessing conflict over its 'desilting' process.
According to a report by The Goan, the traditional fishermen gathered to protest against the digging process after a dredger, an excavation device used for the scrapping of the sea bed, was seen in the river. They reportedly called upon the Captain of Ports to immediately revoke the work order.
The publication reported that this was not a move to desilt the river, but, a case of 'capital dredging' to remove the virgin soil from the sea bed to create smooth navigational channels for larger ships.
The fishermen have claimed that since the river depth in most part of the Varca-Telaulim bridge stretch has always been much less than three meter, such move would destroy the marine ecosystem which is the breeding ground for shellfish and other fish species. Additionally, initiating the work without obtaining relevant environmental clearances have also been cited as a gross violation of the laws.
Reports have pointed out that the dredger appeared to be moving in the direction of Orlim to carry out the clean-up along the six-km river stretch.
The AVCB Traditional Fishermen Association which represents the fishermen on the banks of Assolna, Velim, Betul, Chinchinim and Cavelossim, has written a letter to the Captain of Ports not to carry out any dredging or desilting work without consulting the fishermen and obtaining their consent.
A deliberate attempt to conduct 'capital dredging' on the river bed in the name of desilting has been touted as a case of fraud with the locals and criminal violence against the fishermen community depending on River Sal for their livelihood without involving them into the decision-making process.
"It is most unacceptable that the fisher folk, who are the caretakers, occupants and owners of these resources held in common for thousands of years, have not been informed about the plans to dredge our river. We know and own every inch of this river, and your attempt to interfere with her without informing us is gross contempt of Article 19 of the Constitution, the United Declaration of the Rights of indigenous peoples and Goa Panchayat Rat Act," said Association president Agostinho Furtado.