Goa is one of the blessed places in the world as there is no dearth of pristine natural beauty, wherever we go. In Goa, we have thick forests of the Western Ghats on the east, and scenic beaches on its west coast.
Sometimes, one does not even have to travel anywhere to experience the natural beauty as it is literally found in our backyards. One such spot is the village spring.
Springs are beautiful water bodies and are watering holes that attract people, animals, birds, etc. These springs hold special significance in the summer season as they are ideal for taking a dip or bathing in the scorching summer heat. These waters are also considered medicinal as they have healing properties.
A LAND OF MANY SPRINGS
In Goa, we have famous springs like Kesarval spring, Pomburpa spring and Bainguinim spring. However, one can find springs in any village, especially if it has a hilly forest cover.
It is estimated that there are around 500 springs in Goa. These springs are a source of water for nearby ponds, rivers, etc. Thus, they are ecologically important water bodies.
They are also found in urban spaces. For example, the capital city of Panjim has three springs — Boca de Vaca, near Mahalaxmi temple; Fonte Phoenix at Mala; and Tiguranchi bai at St Inez.
Most of these springs are now in a state of neglect as they are not being used on a daily basis due to the availability of tap water. But, if we maintain them, they will help to recharge our ground water, and thus, solve many issues related to water scarcity.
THEN & NOW
Artist and writer, Clarice Vaz, who loves to chronicle her village, Saligao, reminisces about her village spring, Salmona spring. She used to visit this spring as a child in the 1970s.
“I used to take a net bag with a stick and try to catch tadpoles and small fish in the spring waters. The area used to be filled with trees and lush green foliage. I could see fresh clear spring water flow into a masonry channel, a few inches wide, and it led to a spot that would protrude. Here, I could see people bathing and even drinking water directly from the sprout! Some would fill their kouso (pot) with medicinal water (from the spring) to take home,” remembers Clarice.
She further informs that according to village ancestors, oral histories and Rev Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas, the spring water had medicinal properties. It has cured people with poor eyesight and certain skin ailments.
She recollects how the place used to be brimming with wildlife such as reptiles, amphibians and a variety of birds. But, in the year 2021, this spring was ‘upgraded’ with a concrete structure and stripped of its natural beauty.
“It (the upgradation) could have been done in a more eco-friendly way. Today, the tiles are slippery to walk on, especially during the rainy season, and the garbage left behind by visitors adds to the filth. Lots of tourists use GPS and come to bathe there, creating a lot of garbage. A structure has come up there, too. When I used to visit this place, it had that beautiful natural look and feel,” sighs Clarice.
She points out to another spring of Saligao village, which is called Aquem spring, in Mollembhat, (Akenchi Zhor) that arises from a rocky patch in a forested area.
“It is thought to have been built by the comunidade of Saligao centuries ago according to local historian Rev Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas, for he found a mention in the Bosquejo Historico das communidades das Aldeias dos Concelhos das Ilhas, Salcette e Bardez by Filipe Nery Xavier (1852). This spring has totally collapsed, today. It has dried up.”
This is the sorry state of many village springs. Since many of our hills are now being destroyed to make way for real estate projects, the springs which originate from hills have disappeared.
Sharing a similar experience is cartoonist, Alexyz, while speaking about the spring of Siolim village.
“There is a spring in the village of Siolim in the once gorgeous green forest of Marna, situated in Gollant with a nearby temple that added to its old world charm. Today, a concrete jungle has devoured the spring to a pathetic trickle. I've not been there for long as I have no desire to get depressed,” laments Alexyz.
Along with concretisation, many a time, revellers do not understand the ecological and cultural aspect of such springs. Tourists or people from other places usually come here to have a bath, to drink, to party, etc. Thus, leaving garbage all around and disturbing the sanctity of the place. That’s the reason many villagers do not allow outsiders to such springs now, as that’s the only way to protect such spaces.
Having said that there are also some positive stories. The revival of the Pomburpa spring is one such story. Marius Fernandes, who is known to host various feasts all over Goa, was also instrumental in restoring the Pomburpa spring in the year 2009. It was through a 15-day summer camp that he, along with the community, worked on cleaning and reviving the spring.
Marius was approached by the manager of St Elizabeth's High School, late Fr Santana Carvalho, to curate a festival that would raise awareness about the neglected Pomburpa spring. “Little did I know that this experience would change my life forever and leave a lasting impact on the community,” says Marius.
He organised a 15-day summer camp for students and parents, centred around the theme of ‘zero waste and inclusivity’. The camp included workshops, created educational materials, and designed engaging activities that would connect people with nature and the significance of preserving our water sources.
It was then, through social media and news coverage that they garnered to get more support for this endeavour. They cleared away debris, and initiated a comprehensive clean-up effort. Thus, they managed to restore the spring.
“As for me, that experience became the catalyst for a lifelong commitment to environmental conservation. It taught me that each individual has the power to make a difference, and when we come together for a common cause, our impact knows no bounds. Pomburpa spring will forever serve as a reminder of what can be done,” concludes Marius.
Arti Das is a freelance journalist based in Goa. She loves writing about art, culture and the ecology of Goa.