Posted on January 7, 2021
Site inspection to be undertaken to ascertain river depth, demarcate fishing zones; Minister says ready to give written assurance that project is not to facilitate coal transportation or passenger vessels
PANJIM: Following objections from the traditional fishing community over the dredging of River Sal, the lifeline of Salcete, the State government has kept in abeyance the project, pending a joint site inspection by the Captain of Ports (CoP) and the fishermen, of the proposed six kilometre river stretch, to be taken up for desiliting.
Ports Minister Michael Lobo and Fisheires Minister Filip Neri Rodrigues on Monday held a meeting with the AVCB Traditional Fishermen Association, representing the fishermen of Assolna, Velim, Betul, Chinchinim and Cavelossim. At the meeting, it was decided that a joint site inspection of the river be undertaken to ascertain the river depth and demarcate the fishing zone areas.
The Fisheries Minister too stressed on the need to ensure that the dredging activity does not harm or disturb the marine life of the river.
Speaking to media persons post the meeting, Lobo said that the government is firm on undertaking the dredging of River Sal, which is the need of the hour. “For now, we have kept on hold the project, till the fishing community takes a decision. The site inspection will be done tomorrow (Tuesday),” he said.
Lobo said that the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which is monitoring the rejuvenation of rivers across the country, has granted time till March to complete the second phase of dredging of River Sal, which is around six kilometers.
“If the fishing community feels that there is no need to desilt the river, then they will have to file an intervention in NGT submitting their objection,” he said.
The Minister said that the river has to be desilted, as a lot of silt is accumulated and hence the river depth varies at each point. “The only idea behind rejuvenating the river is to improve the navigational channel for the fishing community,” he said, adding, “We are ready to give a written assurance that the project is not to facilitate coal transportation or passenger vessels.”
Lobo said that during the site visit on Tuesday, the officials will put forth the EIA report and desiliting plan before the fishing community, for their understanding.
Earlier, Rodrigues admitted that the government failed to take fishermen, the main stakeholders into confidence, while proposing the project. “The dredging of River Sal is a long-pending issue. It is important to protect and conserve marine life. We have to ensure that the work does not disturb the marine life,” he said.
The fishermen said that they wanted to know what exactly the dredging proposal is and whether it will harm their traditional fishing activities and livelihood. “We have demanded that the fishing community be taken into confidence,” they said.
The fishermen said that the dredging work, which was to commence from Monday, is on hold pending a joint inspection at the site. “Also, the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) needs to be finalised at the earliest, as the plan has demarcated the fishing zones,” they said.
The fishermen association said that until the government satisfies all their queries, the dredging work will not be allowed.