River Sal: a victim of man’s indifference

Restoration and desilting of River Sal is the need of the hour
River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.All pics: Dhiraj Harmalkar

The Mhadei water diversion remains a burning issue in Goa with the Goa government failing to portray the importance of Mhadei’s water to the state before the centre.

Similarly, River Sal stands as an example of the government’s ineptitude. The Sal, which is considered the lifeline of Salcete, needs to be protected from pollution and manmade destruction.

River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
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Recently, when the centre gave its approval to the detailed project report (DPR) submitted by the Karnataka government to build a project at the Mhadei basin, to divert water to Karnataka, Goans woke up from their slumber.

Overnight thousands of Mhadei river experts appeared and started blaming the government, giving numerous suggestions regarding the Mhadei.

River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
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There was a Save Mhadei rally and protest which was held on January 16 in Sattari. The majority of the protestors and residents who attended were from South Goa.

Ironically, the Sal, which is considered of utmost importance to Salcete and other parts of South Goa, has remained neglected for decades.

Release of raw sewage, dumping waste in river Sal are the main causes of its pollution.
Release of raw sewage, dumping waste in river Sal are the main causes of its pollution.

The Sal is dying a slow death, and it is not due to natural phenomena but because of the human destruction of nature, pollution and unplanned development which has now started taking a toll on the very existence of the river.

Some concerned residents from South Goa are worried and have expressed great concern about River Sal’s future.

River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
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Judith Rebelo, a resident of Verna, said that the River Sal originates from the Verna plateau and the water then goes through the Udear Spring and farther to Ambulor Lake in Verna. Furthermore, the river bifurcates in various directions.

Rebelo further said that the problem today is that this river is highly polluted. There is industrial pollution and pollution from hotels, big residential buildings along the lake and the track of the river.

River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
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"During the monsoon, the laterite stone on the Verna plateau absorbs the rainwater and retains it, and then throughout the year it keeps releasing it slowly into these water bodies.

However, in the last 20 years, severe damage has been done to the catchment areas due to haphazard development. We are fortunate to have the Sal. Now that people are coming forward to save the Mhadei, it is equally important to protect and save the Sal," she added.

River Sal originates from Uder spring in Verna.
River Sal originates from Uder spring in Verna.

Sanjay Dessai, the principal of Cuncolim Educational Society College, said, “It is good to see that people and the opposition leaders are coming together to save the Mhadei.

Similarly, there is the Sal in Salcete, which has sadly turned into a gutter. The reason behind this situation is that for so many years the Sal has not been cleaned and desilted. Opposition leaders should also give attention to the Sal.”

River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
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Dessai further informed us that the major reason behind the Sal’s pollution is that hotels and slums from Margao and Fatorda are releasing dirty water into the river. There is no proper sewerage line. "I appeal to the people that there is a need to have an agitation to save River Sal," he added.

River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
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Venzy Viegas, an MLA from Benaulim, said that the Sal originates from the Verna plateau and meets the Arabian Sea in Cavelossim. The river, which originates in Goa, is being polluted by raw sewage.

River Sal flows through the Ambulor lake in Verna.
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"I am fighting to save and clean the River Sal in the Assembly as a legislator. I have also written letters to all the authorities concerned. I have also written to the chief secretary about this matter.  The NGT order states that the chief secretary is responsible for clearing the pollution of River Sal.

He should have instructed the member secretary of GSPCB and the sewerage section of PWD to plug the 6 locations where the sewerage is being released into River Sal. But sadly, no good outcome has come up," Viegas added.

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