Election update: Small state, big promises

The Mandovi that flows through the state.
The Mandovi that flows through the state.

Two hundred and fifty candidates are contesting 40 seats in the elections for Goa's legislative assembly scheduled for February 4, 2017. Of these, more than half of the seats (61 percent) are being contested by four major parties--Aam Aadmi Party, Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party-Goa Suraksha Manch-Shiv Sena combine. What are their promises for the betterment of water, sanitation and Goa's natural resources? India Water Portal tries to find out.

Garbage and waste management
The issue of solid waste management is high on the priority list for Goans who have been active both in declaiming the poor state of garbage management and coming up with decentralised systems of their own such as implementing community-led waste segregation and composting in mohallas and villages.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has promised that Goa will be garbage-free in a year. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promises to build two new garbage plants and encourage door-to-door collection of waste. The Indian National Congress (Congress) promises to enable waste composting at all government offices, government-run schools and other institutions. In addition, they propose that every Goan household be given a free waste composting unit and dry waste will be collected at source.

Espie Salgaonkar of Green Goa Works, an organisation that works in solid waste management, points out that simply building a waste management plant is not enough; there is a need to ensure waste collection. She says, "If any of the parties really take this manifesto seriously, they can use their party workers who are presently working day in and day out. If they are trained to go door to door and create awareness, then solid waste management can be accomplished."

Protection of rivers
Goa's agriculture, transport and fishing depend on the health of its rivers. Water scarcity in the neighbouring states have also made the sharing of rivers a matter of dispute. Rivers, however, do not feature strongly in the manifestos.

A boat on the Sal. By Steve Hancocks via Wikimedia CommonsThe Congress and the AAP have both promised to cancel the licences of floating casinos. While this was motivated by a desire to remove the ‘sin city’ image of Goa and not by environmental concerns, the sewage released by these casinos into the Mandovi has been a source of concern amongst citizens for a while. Cancellation of the casino licences, however, will have a ripple effect on this major source of pollution as well. In addition, AAP has promised to revive the highly-polluted river Sal, as well as other water bodies.

The BJP plans to develop waterways in the state. On the other hand, the Congress proposes to remove Goa’s rivers from the National Waterways list in a bid to retain Goa's ownership over her rivers as a part of the “right to identity”. They want all rivers to be declared “heritage rivers”. The Congress has promised to recommend to the government of India, via a resolution passed in the Goa Legislative Assembly, to make necessary amendments to the National Waterways Act 2016 and delete the names of six rivers of Goa which are mentioned in the Schedule of the Act at Serial Nos 25 (Chapora River), Serial 27 (Cumarjua River), Serial No 68 (Mandovi River), Serial No 71 ( Mapusa/ Moide River), Serial 88 ( Sal River) and Serial No 111 (Zuari River)"

Tallulah D'silva, an architect and environmental crusader, points out the inconsistencies in the promises of various parties. She says, "Goa's waterways are underutilised. The BJP promises to develop the waterways while simultaneously promising large bridges. A fraction of the money spent on these bridges would vastly improve the waterways. Also, there is no discussion of inter-modal transport connections. Links to buses and road transport at ferry terminals is crucial if waterways are to be developed". While talking about the AAP claim to clean up polluted rivers, she points at the lack of a comprehensive plan. D'silva asks, "Before cleaning up rivers, we should also implement checks on the pollution of these rivers. Where are the mandatory strictures to prevent contamination?"

Mining, a major concern
Mining is both a major employment opportunity as well as the biggest threat to the environment in the state. Consequently, the issue is a bone of contention between the “mining affected” and the “mining dependent”. The Goenchi Mati Movement (Goa's soil movement) is a people's movement that seeks to redress this conflict while also ensuring the sustainable use of the state's mineral wealth. They have released a people's manifesto and have circulated among the various contesting parties. They recommend the implementation of “zero loss, zero waste” mining techniques, mining caps and the creation of a permanent fund to distribute the proceeds from mining to the citizens.

How are the contesting parties responding to this manifesto?

The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party-Goa Suraksha Manch-Shiv Sena combine has assured that "mining would be regulated as per the Supreme Court guidelines. The construction of mining corridors will be accelerated with the participation of the (mining) industry”. The Congress has promised that they will restore mining corporations as per the recommendations of the Supreme Court and provide one truck per family to help the affected families repay mining loans. The BJP states that it will implement environment-friendly mining through the use of dedicated mining corridors. It also promises to make the extraction of minor minerals such as laterite and river sand “hassle free” by appropriate regulations.

The AAP and the Goa Su-Raj Party have accepted the Goenchi Mati Movement's manifesto. The AAP, in its manifesto, presents a detailed list of goals regarding mining in Goa. They promise that "the AAP government will create a corpus of Rs 400 crore to take care of the mining dependents like truck drivers, truck and machine owners and the mining-affected people like farmers. We will create adequate compensation packages for the impacted families, the first installment of which will be released within the first quarter of the AAP government. Mining dependents will get employment. Already excavated iron ore and recoverable ore from the dumps (100-200 metric tonnes) will be sold first to ensure adequate employment for the next few years for all dependent on mining. The mining affected will get speedy justice. Farmlands will be reclaimed by desilting and organic restoration."

Fishing for livelihood
Goa's coastline and the many rivers flowing through the state mean that fishing forms an important livelihood as well as a crucial source of protein for the state's citizens. Recently, this livelihood is being threatened by large commercial trawlers, construction in the coastal zone and threats to river flows. Naturally, this activity and the people engaged in it find a mention in the manifestos.

A fish vendor at Margao Market, Goa.As part of its agricultural programme, the BJP plans to promote cage fishing. They have also promised to ensure the rights of traditional residents of the coastal zone. The AAP promises to work with the entire fishing community to find sustainable ways of fishing in Goa where traditional fishermen and trawler businesses can coexist. They also promise a 90-day ban on fishing during the breeding period as well as a complete ban on the ecologically-destructive fishing practices which they propose to petition the Supreme Court to extend across the length of the west coast. The AAP also offers several subsidies to fisherfolk, as well as compensation in case of loss of life.

The Congress is focusing on the marketing side of the fishing industries with its promises to establish fish stalls in each panchayat and municipal ward as well as a cold storage plant at each fishing jetty.

Optimum water supply
The AAP's promises concerning the domestic water supply reflect their plan in Delhi--up to 20,000 litres of free water per family per month. They say, "The Delhi Jal Board made Rs 182 crore additional revenue after this policy was launched because the consumption of water was capped at 20,000 litres by families, thus reducing wasteful usage." The BJP proposes localised filtration plants for 24X7 water supply for all. The Congress has promised free water supply (with no cap mentioned) to families below the poverty line and a reduction in water tariff. In addition, they propose to enable rainwater harvesting systems in all government buildings.

Tallulah D'silva also warns us to look beyond the published manifestos. She asks, “Is this the plan for only five years, or is it a long-term plan for 30 years or so? We need to ask how the contesting parties envisage the state in the long run and not just a manifesto of tasks for the next few years.”

Post By: chicu