A sinking feeling

The breaking of protective bunds threaten to submerge a village island in Goa

Published: Monday 15 November 1999

the island village of Divar, about 6 km from Panaji, Goa, is under serious ecological threat due to the damage to bunds . Bunds are the protective river-side walls which were built centuries ago to protect the low-lying land that was submerged during high tides.

In some areas, the broken bunds have allowed the seepage of saline water far inshore. It has not only affected agricultural and horticultural operations, but drinking water too -- in some cases well water too has turned salty. During high tides, the impact of the broken bunds is more visible, as large areas of the village get submerged. "This has never happened for centuries, when the bunds were maintained by the villagers. Now we are literally sinking," says Luis deSouza, a resident of Divar.

However, it is not clear what is causing the weakening of the bunds. Some experts believe that the major cause for this could be the coffer dams, which were erected during the construction of the two Konkan Railway bridges over the Mandovi river. After the building of these bridges, the coffer dams were not removed. As a result these could be functioning as artificial dams, holding water during the tides and thus weakening the bunds along the river. Divar stands prominently mid-course of the Mandovi river in Karnataka. Experts say that the other reasons need to be adequately studied.

The villagers have complained to the Goa Environmental Forum, an umbrella body of green groups in the state. They say that large parts of the island, specially paddy and vegetable growing areas are now being inundated by salt water, thus threatening farming operations.

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