Goa is not just known for its beautiful beaches. The state has a vast ecosystem of rivers, creeks, and lakes which also contribute to making it one of the country’s most loved tourist destinations. There are lakes all over the state, some of which are well known and are a birdwatching paradise. Batim, Mayem, Carambolim are probably the most well known to most birding enthusiasts. The village of St. Cruz, located on the outskirts of Panjim city also holds a beautiful little secret. Created during the Portuguese era, Bondvol lake was the main source of irrigation to St. Cruz and its surrounding areas when agriculture was the main occupation.
Bondvol lake needs saving from land-grabbers and property developers
It’s hard to believe that such a beautiful spot exists so close to one of Goa’s most populated areas. Until a few years ago, the lake was mostly visited by locals. Its water supply was only utilized as drinking water and to irrigate the fields in the neighboring areas. The lake has a catchment area that is 12.14m-high and 180m-long. It is an earthen dam built by St Cruz (Calapor) comunidade during the Portuguese era. Comunidade land is land that belongs to the community. Over the years, the lake has also been visited by 105 species of birds, that could make it a premier bird watching spot if beautified and maintained properly.
However, according to an old Herald article, since 1968, there has been a conflict of interest over the land. The story says that one of the tenants illegally, in connivance with the Kalapur Comunidade grabbed the property under the tenancy right. It’s said that the tenant had only one years’ lease documents but he succeeded in acquiring it legally after Comunidade officials didn’t turn up for the hearing at the deputy collector’s office.
Today, this lake lies in danger of disappearing completely. In the last year, property developers have also encroached on the land and begun cutting into the surrounding hill, illegally. This massive destruction of the hills is bad for the lake’s delicate ecosystem and residents of St. Cruz have been fighting back.
The Save Bondvol lake campaign
When Calapur (the Konkani name for St. Cruz) PLUS(People for Leadership Unity and Service) was created to spread awareness, it wasn’t about any one person or family having control. Arturo had said, “We want that not only the people but the concerned family that holds tenancy rights of the water basin also benefit. Nobody should face injustice. But the government should wake up on the issue and act.”
Additionally, requests have been made with the government to take up this issue and settle it. Going further, the locals also want the government to take over the land and the lake and beautify it as they feel it has a strong potential to become a tourist spot. It’s not just the problem of the lake having been usurped. Illegal hill-cutting has been going on in the surrounding hills by property developers. While it had stopped earlier, locals say that it still happens off and on.
As of April this year, thanks to a Gram Sabha meeting, it was concluded that no building licenses would be issued to real estate developers looking to build in the vicinity of the lake.
You too can join the fight to #SaveBondvolLake. Stay abreast of all the news via the group’s Facebook page.
Check out a list of birds that have been seen at the Bondvol lake in the last 8 years.