Alina backs people to save eco-fragile area

Forest and Environment Minister Alina Saldanha on Friday asserted she will stand behind the people of Cortalim to oppose the Mini-India Park Project proposed to be set up in her constituency.    

In a press statement, Saldanha said it appeared that everybody had set their eyes on the eco-fragile lands in Cortalim, but she would support the people in opposing the proposed mega project at Quelossim.  

Giving details, Saldanha said there was a proposal to set up a project known as Mini India Park in survey Nos 170/1 and 171/1 of Quelossim village admeasuring 9,16,375 sq mts .

“The plot is naturally surrounded by river Zuari and its rivulets on three sides. The fourth side touches land. As per the project report, 75 per cent of the plot gets covered at high tide and aqua farming was carried out on this plot till recently,” she informed.

“This is a pristine fragile eco-sensitive area, much of it falls within the CRZ–I zone and it is rich in biodiversity to the extent that there are several species of resident and migratory birds which roost/breed here. The area also has a mangrove belt which serves as a breeding and feeding ground for many estuarine fish, as well as local and migratory birds,” she observed.

Giving a bit of socio-economic background of the area, Saldanha said, “At this site there exist a few sluice gates which are strategically located to provide smooth inflow and outflow of saline water.

 “It is pertinent to understand that khazan lands are ecologically, economically and socially very important for both agriculture and pisciculture,” she added.

“Mangrove ecosystem forms one of the vital ecological sensitive maritime habitats. It is a niche between fresh water and marine environment. It requires more attention from protection and conservation point of view due to its ecological and economic importance as a coastal resource,” she stated.

The minister said that the ecological importance of mangrove was realised during cyclones, strong wave action, floods, sea level rise, solar UV-B radiation, green house effects and coastal erosion.

It was recently reported in a local daily that there was illegal filling being carried out in the mangrove areas under the said survey numbers. Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority along with Goa State Bio-diversity Board conducted a site inspection and it was noticed that a large patch of mangrove area abutting estuarine areas at the aforesaid survey numbers had been indiscriminately filled with mud. Pipelines, cables and two heavy earthmoving machineries were also noticed.

Saldanha maintained GCZMA had not granted any permission for any type of construction in this fragile, eco-sensitive area which is classified as CRZ-I (No Development Zone). “The GCZMA has notified the revenue authorities to initiate appropriate action and restore the area to its original condition,” she informed. [H]