While the embers of the recent forest fires are yet to cool down, the Save Mhadei Save Goa activists have raised the heat for declaring the Mhadei belt as a tiger reserve and appealed for Goan unity to save the diversion of its main lifeline -- the Mhadei river.
The activists are of the firm belief that declaring Mhadei as a tiger reserve will be the key to averting the diversion of river Mhadei by Karnataka, which is hell-bent on snatching away this precious resource.
Now, the Save Mhadei Save Goa members have decided to go to all the panchayats, PTAs, religious places, maintenance societies, NGOs, sports clubs etc., and urge them to adopt resolutions to declare Mhadei as a tiger reserve.
Social activist Rajan Ghate, who addressed a press conference in Panjim, said the demand for tiger reserve is nothing new, it is already there. "Even politicians, including Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, have backed the tiger reserve. The politicians have to now keep aside their egos and work to save Mhadei water," he stated.
Rajan Ghate, social activist
The drying or the depletion of the river water due to Karnataka's excesses will pose threat to the very survival of Goans residing in 194 villages.
Other members of Save Mhadei Save Goa, Anil Lad, Lucas Ribeiro, Mariano Ferrao, John Nazareth and Sarfraj Ankalgi also addressed the press.
Ghate recalled that then forest minister Rajendra Arlekar, who is now a governor, had also recommended the creation of a tiger reserve. He had also approved the proposal of the State Wildlife Board and sent it to the Central Wildlife Board for approval, he mentioned.
The Goa forest department has found evidence of tigers in the Mhadei forest through camera traps. In January 2020, four tigers were found killed in the sanctuary. The villagers have also acknowledged the presence of tigers.
Ghate has appealed to all the 40 MLAs not to look at the welfare of their own constituencies, but work for the benefit of entire Goa. "It is time to save the tiger as it is one of the major components of the forest ecosystem," he stated.
Once a tiger reserve is declared, the movement of humans will be restricted and the government will be duty-bound to declare buffer zones outside the core forest where development will be regulated.