Khazan lands in Cortalim face government neglect

 Khazans are coastal wetlands. They were reclaimed from mangrove forests by an intricate system of dykes, sluice gates and canals and put to multiple productive uses such as agriculture, aquaculture and salt panning.

However of late, as in other parts of the state, khazan lands in the Cortalim constituency are facing neglect. Nowadays many khazan lands in Cortalim have been inundated by saline water of Zuari river basically due to dilapidated condition of the sluice gates and bunds. Some attribute inundation of khazan lands to breach of bunds caused by barge activities as well as purposeful breach by locals to undertake pisciculture.
Local farmers used to traditionally practice rice cultivation by growing salt-tolerant varieties in khazan lands during monsoon season besides undertaking shrimp farming during off season. However, due to neglect of such lands most farmers have given up farming in khazan lands of late.
Also besides providing grounds for paddy cultivation, khazan lands serve as emergency storm water receptacles and thus play a major role in preventing floods. The mangrove vegetation near the external or internal bunds provides the most important natural anti-erosive barrier.
The scenario as regards condition of khazan lands in Sancoale village panchayat jurisdiction is no better with most farmers forced to abandon farming in such lands due to entry of saline water.
However, despite all odds, some fishermen residing at Bandiya Khuris in Thana besides Santrant, Velvaddo and Quelossim are still engaged in cultivating paddy in khazan fields.
When contacted, the former panch of Sancoale village panchayat, Mr Tulsidas Naik disclosed that around 60 farmers from Sancoale area were forced to abandon farming recently due to neglect of khazan lands.
Mr Naik disclosed that about 20 years ago, saline water from Zuari river had entered into the paddy fields in Sancoale due to the dilapidated sluice gate.
“Locals besides the affected farmers had brought the issue to the notice of the concerned authorities including the then Mormugao mamlatdar, who was the administrator. But, till date, no initiative has been taken to repair the sluice gate and thereby forcing the farmers to abandon farming,” Mr Naik said adding the affected farmers have entered fishing business.
He further said that the issue of inundation of fields caused due to dilapidated condition of sluice gates was taken up by the farmers committee with the concerned authorities, but till date no action has been initiated to provide relief to the affected farmers.
Another resident of Cortalim, Mr Cliff Vaz disclosed that the problem of inundation of khazan lands by saline water from river Zuari was witnessed in other parts of Cortalim constituency including Thana, Quelossim and Velvaddo localities but due to timely intervention and efforts taken by the then Cortalim MLA, late Matanhy Saldanha defective sluice gates were repaired thereby allowing farmers to continue their farming activities.
The villagers of Quelossim in Cortalim had recently objected to the  filling up of khazan land in Quelossim.
Even the Minister for Forest and Environment, Ms Alina Saldanha, deputy collector and sub-divisional magistrate, Mormugao and the Mormugao mamlatdar were intimated about the issue. The concerned talathi had placed a report to the deputy collector and sub-divisional magistrate, Mormugao for further action.
When contacted, Ms Saldanha, who had carried out an inspection, stated that the khazan land was being filled for some construction purpose without any valid permission from the concerned authorities. She also claimed that the case has been forwarded to coastal regulation zone (CRZ) authorities and that she has requested them to inspect the site in order to seek necessary action against those involved in filling of khazan land. [NT]