When you protect your water, it protects you back. Change can feel abstract to most people. But by connecting healthy oceans, rivers, streams, and lakes to our mental health, I think we nudge our relationship with and protection of water forward, one splash at a time.
These words of American scientist Wallace J Nichols explain to us the importance of water bodies in our lives and how, over the years, these have shaped our cultural and social engagement with each other.
In Goa, too, rivers have sustained lives and livelihoods over the years, and still continue to do so, but, sadly, there have been no scientific efforts to document these aspects despite the dangers of diversion to these life-giving sources by Karnataka and Maharashtra, our neighbours.
On Wednesday, April 5, 2023, news came in that Maharashtra stopped work on the Virdi dam in Dodamarg area after Goa government issued notices to the former. It is learnt that the neighbouring State has plans to build more such dams and this could be detrimental to a small State like Goa.
If not for environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar, who has always been vigilant to the transgressions in the Mhadei forests by our neighbours, the Maharashtra water officials would have happily given shape to their plans to steal our water.
Environmental activists have raised concerns that Maharashtra's nefarious designs to construct dams will reduce the flow of water into the Valvanti river that feeds places like Sanquelim, Bardez and Bicholim.
On the other side, Karnataka is also hell-bent on diverting the waters of river Mhadei and, to date, the response of the State government has not been very strong, according to environmentalists.
What's baffling is that both Maharashtra and Karnataka are not water-deficient States, yet they continue to eye our water, which in the long run will have serious ramifications for a small State like Goa.
India continues to follow the philosophy of damming water, while America and Europe have stopped building dams for decades. This is despite the fact studies clearly indicate dams affect river hydrology, ecology and forests.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are looking at a very bleak future due to climate change, building dams by chopping down forests will not contribute to saving the planet from this man-made heating crisis.
Now, saving our water and our forests is not the task of Rajendra Kerkar and the environmentalists alone, every Goan has to wake up and stop this theft by our neighbours. We all depend on this water and so we are duty-bound to fight for it.
Goa has 11 rivers and several water bodies that sustain lives and livelihoods. The government has to come out with a roadmap for conserving these precious water resources for posterity and stop making political promises of 24x7 water.
We keep blaming Karnataka for the water crisis unfolding before us. The neighbouring State was planning the diversion of river Mhadei for many years, but we did nothing to stop it. Come on, let us admit we failed, there is nothing wrong in saying so.
In all these years, knowing well Karnataka's intention to steal our water, Goa had enough time to bring to the fore a detailed and coherent research to establish a strong case to avert the diversion of river Mhadei.
However, the State government was hibernating and allowed Karnataka to give shape to its nefarious design and is now making mere political statements without any action worth its salt.
Rivers are what make us prosperous and in Goa, the Zuari and Mandovi (Mhadei) are like the mother and father who have fed their children well. And we are those children who have been enjoying their bounty down the ages.
So, for all that your rivers have done for you, it's payback time to save them from going lifeless. If they survive, you too will thrive.