The southern state of Kerala suffered massive damages and losses with the recent floods. The official death toll as of now is approximately 400 but there could still be many more that have lost their lives. Even with the flood waters receding, tens of thousands are still stranded. People have lost their homes and earthly possessions thanks to this natural disaster. And what’s worse is that experts say Goa could very well be in the same horrific situation at some point in time if not careful.
Goa could experience the same floods that Kerala has if not careful
According to expert and noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil, Goa needs to take stock of things on the environmental front to avoid a repeat of the Kerala floods in the state. Gadgil is the author of a landmark report written in 2011 on the preservation of the Western Ghats. He has stressed that the Kerala floods could have been avoided had the authorities followed environmental laws. He is also of the opinion that Goa is liable to suffer a similar fate with all the industrialization going on. This greed for unlimited profits from activities like illegal hill cutting, stone quarrying, and mining will be Goa’s downfall.
“Certainly all sorts of problems are beginning to surface on the environmental front in the Western Ghats. Goa, of course, does not have the Western Ghats which are so high as in Kerala, but I am sure Goa will also experience all sorts of problems,” he said. The words were a reaction to what has been the worst case of floods in the country.
He also said that people’s greed was creating complete economic disparity. The government is doing nothing to curb the illegal activities allowing the already rich to become even more so. This has resulted in environmental norms being completely ignored.
Even the information in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports submitted by the mining companies back in 2011 when Gadgil did extensive research, was false. Companies left out a lot of relevant information back then itself. Gadgil had headed the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) set up by the government. It recommended then that various parts of the Western Ghats be classified as ecologically sensitive areas.
Goa is heading for disaster
Mining may have been stopped in Goa in the last year but the damage done to the environment will take years to be undone. Construction has also increased tenfold in the last few years. This has led to rivers being blocked or polluted, illegal hill cutting to widen roads which have resulted in landslides occurring. Flooding in urban areas in Goa has also become the norm each monsoon. Goa also recently faced flooding in places like Bambolim, Panjim, Mapusa, and Siolim among others. These floods rendered the public helpless and threw everything into a tailspin.
Experts have said that one of the reasons for flooding is the blocking of paddy fields. With the innumerable construction sites coming up near paddy fields, it has resulted in the fields being destroyed. This means that there is nowhere for the water to recede. “Rivers and wetlands perform important functions in regulating water flow. If they are destroyed, as in Kerala, water will take its own course,” says Madhav Gadgil. Additionally, non-biodegradable materials used in construction, as well as the amount of garbage being generated, has added to the problem.
This is evident in the highway and bridge work going on throughout the state, particularly close to Mapusa and Margao. All the mangroves in these areas and elsewhere have also been taken away which could spell impending doom for Goa.
The need of the hour
With all these problems and advisories from scientists and environmentalists, Goa needs to take another careful look at its plans for development. Mining is a site-specific operation whereas the construction of roads and buildings are called non-site-specific operations. In such cases, studies need to be done on the feasibility and locations of projects. “Therefore, we have to plan our development to minimize ecological damage and plan it away from rivers, coast and water bodies. Reduction or blocking of these channels and the adjoining catchment areas will intensify the impacts of high-intensity rainfall in short duration,” hydrogeologist Manoj Ibrampurkar said.
And it’s not just Kerala that was affected by floods. News reports also say that parts of Karnataka also suffered flooding. With all these calamities occurring so close to home, Goa needs to tread carefully and ensure that the state doesn’t endure the same in the future.