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article imageUnplanned water supply scheme ruins Indian paddy farmers dreams in Goa

By Armstrong Vaz     Dec 17, 2008 in Environment
The Selaulim irrigation water supply scheme in Goa was meant to increase production but instead, it rendered few fields fallow on account of excess water. In some placesin the state, the low paddy cultivation is due to other factors.
It’s a problem of plenty, which my neighbours who cultivated small paddy-field holdings close to my house are facing with the advent of modernisation. As villagers from other parts of Goa brace up to sow the paddy seeds with the onset of monsoon at the end of this month, my neighbours can only lie idle and roll in bed or walk past the paddy fields now submerged with weeds, wild growth and almost four-five feet deep water and curse their fate.
Yes, the Selaulim irrigation water supply scheme, which brought more water for already self-sufficient Cuncolim village, has been a curse for villagers of Sanvorcotto ward in Cuncolim, cultivating paddy fields for generations.
With more water flowing into the paddy fields, the paddy fields of Pursho Dessai, Marcelina D’Costa and several other farmers have been rendered unfit for any cultivation.
“15 years back during the May period, villagers staying close to the paddy fields used to extract mud from the fields and carry it home for gardening. Children used to come and sit in the paddy fields in the evening and enjoy the fresh breeze. Such was the dry state of the paddy fields that did not need any material to prevent the clothes from getting soiled. They also enjoyed the thrills of watching the local toddy-tapper climb the tree to collect the toddy. The children, if the toddy-tapper was kind enough, could enjoy a bit of the toddy and carry home for their mothers to prepare their favourite sandonas (a sweet dish made from rice powder, jaggery or sugar and coconut copra),” recollects engineer Victor D’Costa.
His family cultivated one of the paddy fields and indulged in all of the children thrills, he regrets that his children cannot take the liberty of enjoying the same thrills in the paddy fields, which are a step away from his home. The damage to the paddy fields has been gradual, two decades back the farmers could not have only one crop on account of the monsoon, but now they cannot cultivate any crop ever since Selaulim irrigation officials release water for cultivation in the paddy fields.
Farmers also complained that the agriculture department had failed to carry out any study in the area over the excess water release and the resultant barren fields.
“This is a typical case of government undertaking a project sans any study. It a waste of money and playing with the livelihood of the villagers,” regrets Rosario D’Costa, a farmer from the region.
The advent of the Selaulim water supply for irrigation purposes in areas of Cuncolim changed the water scenario in the village. The release of Selaulim water for irrigation and the existing water supply from the 12 bunds of Cuncolim rendered many paddy fields unfit for cultivation for both the seasons.
The 12 temporary bunds (embankments), which are constructed every year during the months of October and November on the numerous rivulets running through the village. The construction of the 12 bunds also maintained the water level in the wells in Cuncolim throughout the year.
They used to supply water for irrigation purposes during the season, for several decades. One of the bunds, Naya bund, used to supply water to Velim, Assolna, Ambelim and the neighbouring villages.
Water from Naya bund used to reach the villages through a well-organised distribution network of seasonal bunds at Banda-Assolna, and some other parts of Velim, but unfortunately the bund was not blocked for water for the last two decades.
Farmers in the area lamented the excess water released in the field. A few years ago, former member of legislative assembly (MLA), late Dattaram Desai had placed the woes of farmers before the then agriculture minister Dayanand Narvekar.
The assurance given by the minister to look into their woes, however, did not materialise, and thus, farmers in Cuncolim continued to be neglected.
Earlier Astromiro Tavares and his friends could indulge in their hobby of emptying, the small water ponds in the same paddy fields and carry home the fresh water fish and have it with their stable fish-curry-rice menu, they cannot think of draining the huge reservoir of water, in which the paddy field is inundated with.
But there is also the other side of the story where farmers have been reluctant to take up paddy farming, for the low returns from it and the high cost of labour in Goa. And with many paddy fields going barren, many have been clandestinely converted into development zones, thanks to the complicity of the bureaucrats and the politicians’ nexus with the real estate builders.
People say that the high cost of labour, cattle menace, abundant water in some areas and lack of water in other areas force farmers to leave the land uncultivated. Besides labour cost, the remittances from family members working aboard have made the villagers choose a easy lifestyle over working the paddy fields.
Abundant water and barren paddy fields have become regular features also in the villages of Assolna, Velim, Ambelim, Chinchinim, Dramapur and Sarzora in the last 10 years. The villages commonly referred to as AVCC were once the pride of Salcete with every inch of paddy field cultivated during both seasons.
Vast tracts of fields at Dandeavaddo, Durga, Sarzora and Baida in Chinchinim village, which one could marvel for the green top while travelling along the national highway number 17 have all been relegated to memories, as the paddy fields have been bereft of farming activity for the last ten years.
Lack of farming activity in the areas has given a chance to some people to dump waste and garbage in the paddy fields, as Goa garbles over the problem to find a garbage dumping site and to treat garbage at source.
The Selaulim irrigation water supply scheme was meant to increase production and alleviate the suffering of the farmers after making inroads into villages of Velim, Ambelim, Assolna, Cuncolim, Betul and Cutbona areas.
But instead, some of the fields have been rendered fallow on account of the excess water and in some places due to reluctance of villagers to take up to farming. Anyway, it is a grim farming scenario even as the world battles to overcome the scenario of shortage of food grains a problem, which is likely to aggravate with the twin tragedies in neighboring China and Myanmar.
More about Goa, India, Agriculture, Farming, Cuncolim
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