Goa’s wild side

by Chriselle Bayross
Goa's Mangroves and environment
Mangrove ecosystem in Goa

Goa over the years

Through the years visits to Goa have been a constant. My favourite season is the monsoon in Goa. If you see how green and beautiful Goa is during this period, you will understand why.

Does Goa’s beauty lie only in its beaches?

I admit to being a beach bum while visiting Goa. However this time we went on a mangrove trail, offered by WildOtters. It was a collaboration programme with Olaulim Backyards, the place we were staying at. It was an eye opener exploring Goas mangroves and environment this time!

Different types of Otters across the world
Different types of Otters across the world

Wild Otters

The Wild Otters wildlife and conservation group is interesting, with projects in ecology and community. And as the name specifies, they study and research the ecology of otters. We met Katarina the Director of the program on Chorao Island. Situated in North Goa, it is the state’s largest island and is very pretty. I would love to explore the island some more, but that’s for another post!

The Chorao Island mangroves are famous, as it is part of the Salim Ali Bird sanctuary. The trail included a boat ride in the mangroves and a walk through the sanctuary. We also visited the Wild Otters head office .We discussed camera
trapping for Otters and about the animals welfare and the organisations programs.

Enjoying the mangrove trail

We started by taking a boat trip around the area. This was my first time exploring mangroves. They are thriving with life. We saw reptiles, fish and numerous birds like the Brahminy kite, white collared kingfisher, heron, sandpiper etc. We missed seeing the crocodile but the experience did not lack because of it.

Mud lobster homes and ant hills in the mangroves

Mud lobster homes and ant hills in the mangroves

Importance of mangroves

Katarina mentioned that mangroves are useful for

  • Coastal protection, with its dense root system stabilizing the coastline and preventing erosion
  • Timber and plant products, including medicinal products, are derived from the mangroves and are used by many communities
  • Mangroves are also home to a wide variety of marine and terrestrial life, and hence in Goa a form of artisanal fishing thrives near the mangroves

This trip and our conversation with Katarina sparked my interest in what is happening to Goa’s environment today.

Current state of the Salim Ali Bird sanctuary

Somethings we experienced first-hand on our trip:

  • Taking a walk through the sanctuary, loud pop music could be heard from the casino boats on the river. This was 11am in the morning! If individuals need blaring music at such hours, maybe the casinos should sound proof their rooms. It disturbs the ecosystem in the mangroves, it disturbed us!
  • We saw waste from the river washing up in the mangroves. Why can’t people put their waste in dustbins? Let’s NOT dump in our rivers
  • The nationalization of waterways in Goa, gives a green flag for the mining mafia in the state. Without careful consideration, this will upset the balance in the delicate ecosystem of the mangroves and forests.

Goa's mangroves and environment

Goa’s beautiful trees and forest

Goa’s mangroves and environment today

After our excursion exploring Goa’s mangroves, I got curious to learn about the environment here. At first I thought that I would make this a post entirely about my experience with WildOtters, the organisation that took us on the trip.
However everything is interconnected and we need to maintain our environment. If not then a number of species and not just Otters will die out.

1. Mining is considered a major environmental issue in Goa

  • A report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) estimated that 2500 hectares of forests were lost due to mining between 1988-1997.
  • The India State of Forest Report 2017, said “forest cover within the recorded forest area has decreased by 9 square km (900 ha) due to mining and other developmental activities” within two years from its 2015 assessment.*

In my opinion this is just the reported impact of mining and I am not sure whether we record statistics accurately.

2. Coastal development -but is this balanced development for Goa?

  • Recently the government presented a faulty coastal development plan. Critics claim that the plan was made without considering the “ground realities”. Instead it had been drawn up to tacitly support realtors and the hospitality industry, so they can redevelop prime coastal real estate.
  • There may also be plans to convert part of the coastline into coal hubs, so the fossil fuel can be transferred there from India’s southwestern mines.
  • With sea levels already rising, protesters say the plan has ignored environmental sensitivities,
    including a bird sanctuary, otters’ habitation, shellfish breeding grounds, spawning site embankments, over 700 sluice gates, angling sites, salt pans, estuaries, and heritage sites.**

3. The construction boom and pressure on ecologically sensitive zones and forests in Goa In 2019 alone, an estimated 100,000 trees were cut all over Goa for road expansion

Let’s be a true advocate

While our leaders prefer to posture about the environment, on TV, time should be invested in listening to people working on the ground instead. The one’s who work day in and day out in the forests and who have studied this subject, need to be partners in formulating policies for these areas.

Is this worth fighting for ? Hell YES! Just experience the forest and tell me it is not magical. Start small for ex; investing in a trail like the one we took, ensures that your monies go to support the mangrove and otter’s ecosystem. I for one cannot wait to experience more such trails with WildOtters. Where ever possible get educated so that we can question the things happening around us. If we don’t take a stand now we may lose many wonderful creatures that this ecosystem supports!

Want to do more for the environment? Try Ucycling..read more about it here https://www.ideapromoters.net/do-you-want-to-know-who-an-upcycling-artist-or-zero-waste-advocate-is/

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