The tiny state of Goa is criss-crossed by several rivers and their tributaries. Eleven of these rivers are all-important and have supported the land since the earliest civilization, which is evident from the discovery of Stone Age carvings in their vicinity.
Terekhol, Mandovi, Baga, Zuari, Colval, Saleri, Mandre, Harmal, Sal, Talpona and Galjibag are Goa’s most important rivers, and along with their 42 tributaries, support Goa’s eco-systems. Among these, the Mandovi and Zuari alone drain about 70% of the total geographical area of Goa.
Most of the state’s rivers originate in the dense forests of the Western Ghats and discharge into the Arabian Sea. These rivers form an intricate system of wetlands, tidal marshes and cultivated paddy fields, inter-connected by canals, inland lakes, bays, lagoons and creeks, governed by regular tides, which means that Goa is inextricably linked with its rivers.
1. MANDOVI RIVER
The Mandovi is one of the major rivers of Goa and has the largest basin in the state. It was popularly known as ‘Gomati’ or ‘Goamati’ in the past. It is believed that Goa got its name ‘Gomantak’ from here as this river had an important place in the lives of the people. The Mandovi sustains the Sattari taluka, besides nourishing the ecology of Sanguem, Bicholim, Dharbandora, Tiswadi, Bardez and Ponda taluka.
It flows through Karnataka, and enters Goa via Sattari taluka. In Karnataka and Sattari, it is known as Mhadei, meaning the ‘great mother’. After its confluence with the Khandepar River (in Bicholim), it is called Mandovi, until it reaches the Arabian Sea. It falls into the sea at the Marmagao Bay, near Panjim.
The river forms an important navigational route for commercial purposes.
2. ZUARI RIVER
The Zuari River is the longest river in Goa, and has the second largest basin. The Zuari basin extends from Netravali to Panjim, has around 31% forest cover and houses the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the past, it is believed to have been known as ‘Aghanashini’, the destroyer of sin. The source of this river lies entirely within the state. It flows through the talukas of Tiswadi, Ponda, Mormugao, Salcete, Sanguem and Quepem.
This tidal river originates in the Dighi Ghat (in the Karnataka part of the Sahyadri Hills) and after flowing zigzag for about 145 km, it joins the Arabian Sea at the Mormugao-Dona Paula point.
3. TEREKHOL RIVER
The Terekhol River is the northernmost river of Goa, and originates in the Manohargad (in the Sahyadris), running along the border of Goa before discharging into the Arabian Sea. In its upper reaches, it is known as the Banda River, and Terekhol in the lower reaches.
Patradevi is the entry point of the river into Goa. Torxe, Khadshi and Pedne are its main tributaries. The historic fort of Terekhol is located on its right bank.
The Terekhol river sustains the traditional livelihood of thousands of people in Pernem, where it is also known as the Aronde.
4. COLVAL/CHAPORA RIVER
Colval River, also known as Chapora, rises above Ramghat (in Maharashtra) and follows a zigzag course, demarcating the border of Pernem, Bardez and Bicholim, before flowing into the Arabian Sea, near the historic fort of Chapora.
The Colval river enters Goa at Ibrampur village, in Pernem. A bridge across the river connects the villages of Morjim and Siolim. In the 18th century, the river marked the boundary between Portuguese Goa and India.
5. SAL RIVER
The Sal rises near Verna, and flows parallel to the coast, meeting the Arabian Sea at Betul. Navelim and Cuncolim are the two significant tributaries of this river. It passes through the villages of Benaulim, Navelim, Varca, Orlim, Carmona, Dramapur, Chinchinim, Assolna, Cavelossim, Mobor before it drains into the sea.
6. TALPONA RIVER
Talpona is an important river of Canacona, and originates in the Amba Ghat, in Canacona. Nadke, Gaondongri, Bhatpal and Khalvade are the tributaries of this river.
7. GALJIBAG RIVER
Galjibag is an important river in South Goa. Two rivers of Canacona, ie Mashe and Loliye, are the main feeders of this river. It originates in the hilly areas of Karnataka, and enters Canacona near Mule, flowing till Poinguinim in Canacona, before meeting the sea, near Mashe.
8. SALERI RIVER
The Saleri originates in the forest, which borders Barcem and Gokuldem villages, in Quepem. The river joins the Arabian Sea near Devakaran. The Padi, Agonda and Molore rivers feed the Saleri.
9. MANDRE RIVER
The Mandre river originates from the jungles of Corgao, passes through the hamlets of Mandre and Corgao, before finally uniting with the sea. Today, this river is on the verge of extinction.
10. HARMAL RIVER
The Harmal river originates in the hilly areas of Corgao, and flows for a distance of 11 km before becoming one with the Arabian Sea, at Harmal.
11. BAGA RIVER
This is the smallest river of Goa, and emerges from the forest areas of Assagao, in Bardez. A small stream, which comes from the Saligao hill, joins the Baga river at Arpora. After flowing for about 10 km, the river joins the Arabian Sea.
The Zuari and Mandovi rivers together constitute one of the most fertile areas in the entire Konkan coast and provide ideal conditions for the growth of mangroves. Both rivers are used extensively for transportation of goods (mainly iron ore), fishing and for dumping domestic and industrial waste.
The small rivers of Goa occupy only 30% of the state’s geographical area and sustain the livelihoods of the villages through which they flow. Many of these are now polluted or face extinction due to excessive anthropogenic activities such as mining, tourism, sand mining etc.