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Operation ‘Save St Inez Creek’ need of the hour

With the southwest monsoon getting active over the coast, with the State receiving heavy pre-monsoon showers, residents of Panjim, St Inez, Taleigao and Caranzalem are living in fear of a possible flooding, as the free flow of rain water is likely to be thwarted due to the increase in silt deposits in the St Inez creek, as water bodies drain water from large tracts of fields and inhabitations.

The situation raises concern as St Inez creek has not been de-silted or cleaned by authorities for a long time. Besides, there have been encroachments along the creek with construction of toilets in areas like St Inez and Camrabhat.

The sewage of entire St Inez slum flows into the creek, which is subject to all types of waste including plastic.Over the years, it has also been observed that construction material and leftover debris too is dumped into the creek and it is noticed that at some points the creek is completely blocked.

However, though consecutive governments and municipal councillors have come and gone, none have done anything in this regard and the creek has continued to get more and more polluted, posing health hazards and the threat of inundating the area.

The people of St Inez slums that form a vote bank of some councillors regularly throw garbage into the creek and some have even brazenly built temporary toilets over the creek.

In 2014 and 2016, the region became one of the worst-affected areas, as water entered in few houses in Taleigao, St Inez, Nagali, Tonca and the main reasons for all this was negligence and the lack of efforts to silt the creek.
It is also a fact that the 3.5 km creek, which was once highly productive in fish and shellfish, is now filled with empty cans, plastic bottles, bags, raw sewage and decaying food.

Perhaps, the most difficult thing is to spot the clean water itself as in the past couple of days due to stagnation the entire creek is covered with a thin layer of crawling plants, giving it a deceptive look of green. Authorities should take immediate remedial measures as these are sings of impending breakdown of epidemic in the vicinity.

Time and again environmentalists, along with concerned citizens, have questioned the government’s non-committal attitude towards cleaning and rejuvenation of the creek. The issue is very crucial in terms of putting an end to the spread of deadly diseases, due to the contamination and pollution of water.With the monsoons expected to arrive early next month, environmentalists have raised concerns about the health hazards, as the current condition of the creek is extremely dangerous for those residing along the bank, who may be prone to malaria and dengue.

Councillors too are aware of the looming danger. “Until and unless all the 114 toilets all along the creek are not removed it will get more and more polluted. In my ward there have not been any cases of overflowing or flooding in the rains.” Ward no 16 CCP Councillor Pramay Mainkar pointed out.

Ward no 7 CCP Councillor Rahul Lotlikar too seemed to echo similar concerns. “Monsoon work has still not started and the rains are just round the corner. I had given a list of works to be carried out but nothing has been done. In my area the creek requires de-weeding and this has happened due to the stagnant water flow. Definitely the area will be flooded in the rains,” he said.

Ward no 13 CCP Councillor Dinesh Salgaoncar feels that flooding is imminent and said “There is every chance of flooding; I had discussed this issue with the State government and also with Chief Minister but till now nothing has been done. I am sure this year to the area will flood in the rains. The entire creek needs to be de-silted. When elections come everyone assures this creek issue in their manifesto but nothing is done.”

The CCP Mayor Vithal Chopdekar emphasises, “We have already written a letter to the WRD asking them de-silt certain areas in the wards which are prone to flooding.”

Meanwhile, after fruitless attempts made by many agencies to revive the St Inez Creek in the last few years, Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited (IPSCDL), the agency formed to implement the Smart City Mission, has now envisaged multiple tasks to resolve the problem on war footing.
Also, an initial inspection of the creek has begun and IPSCDL engineers are evaluating the DPR prepared by GSIDC to understand the efforts or steps that have already made.

It may be recalled that GSIDC had prepared a DPR through LKS Consultancy seeking funds to invigorate and beautify St Inez creek under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The Union Ministry of Urban Development too had sanctioned Rs 19.56 crore to the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) in March 2014.

“There is lot of development that has happened since the project was transferred to IPSCDL in January. It is an important project for the city of Panjim. Asian Development Bank (ADB), on our behalf has tendered and 6 firms have shown keen interest for rejuvenation of the creek. Currently the evaluation process is on. We wanted a firm that is specialised in water resources so that it can maintain the glory of the creek,” IPSCDL CEO Swayandipta Choudhuri said.

However, the corporation then transferred the project to GSIDC in May 2014 citing that CCP did not have the required expertise to resolve the issue of the Creek. [H]

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