Government of India published an extraordinary Gazette notification Part II, section 1 on Saturday, March 26, 2016. Notification is from Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department) and mentions that The National Waterways Act 2016 (No. 17 of 2016) of the Parliament received the assent of the President on the 25th March, 2016. President on this date was Pranab Mukherjee. He was present for the convocation ceremony of Goa University in 2017.
It is recorded in the gazette notification “An Act to make provisions for existing national waterways and to provide for the declaration of certain inland waterways to be national waterways and also to provide for the regulation and development of the said waterways for the purpose of shipping and navigation and for matters connected therewith or incidental threto.” The two objectives are highlighted in bold above.
Through this Act existing law ‘the Inland Waterways Authority of India Act, 1985’ stands amended in its Section 2 clause (h) as “national waterway” means the inland waterway declared by section 2 of the National Waterways Act, 2016, to be a national waterway.
Through this Act 111 rivers of India are declared as National Waterways. Out of which six rivers are from Goa as follows:
a. (1) National Waterway 25: Chapora River, from Bridge at State Highway No. 124 (1 Km from Maneri village) upto Confluence of Chapora river with Arabian Sea at Morjim.
b. (2) National Waterway 27: Cumberjua River, from confluence of Cumberjua and Zuari rivers near Cortalim ferry terminal to Confluence of Cumberjua and Mandovi rivers near Sao Martias Vidhan Parishad.
c. (3) National Waterway 68: Mandovi River, from Bridge at Usgao to Confluence of Mandovi river with Arabian Sea at Reis Magos.
d. (4) National Waterway 71: Mapusa/Moide river, from Bridge at National Highway – 17 at Mapusa to Confluence point of Mapusa and Mandovi rivers at Porvorim.
e. (5) National Waterway 88: Sal river, from Orlim/Deusa Bridge to Confluence with Arabian Sea at Mobor.
f. (6) National Waterway 111: Zuari river, from Sanvordem Bridge to Marmugao Port.
Control of these rivers from March 26, 2016 is with Inland Waterways Authority of India based in Gurgaon, Haryana and headed by an IAS officer.
Main purpose for this authority is to carry on dredging and other measures to make rivers deep for navigation of ships as per section 14 clause (c) of Inland Waterways Authority of India Act 1985. Dredging of riverbed and sea bed is known to damage biodiversity of rivers and sea, confirmed by National Green Tribunal study carried on at MPT dredging site of Arabian Sea.
All the land attached to rivers comes under the control of Inland Waterways Authority of India. How much distance is its jurisdiction is not mentioned in the Act. One report online placed this figure at 500 meters from the river. Section 2 clause (a) states defines “appurtenant land” as “all lands appurtenant to national waterway, whether demarcated or not”.
Authority has power to make regulations to exclude fishing and fishermen from carrying on in National Waterways by declaring their activities as ‘disorderly, undesirable and trespassers’ as per section 35 clause (j).
Who stands to benefit?
Main players who are responsible to get Goa’s rivers under Inland Waterways Authority of India is mining companies. They approached this Authority as barge transportation was chocked up as per press cuttings of 22/01/2010 made available on the Authority’s website.
Authority’s chairman visited Goa on 21/01/2010 and met up with delegates of Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mr. Cesar Menezes and others, Goa Barge Owners Association President Atul Jadhav and others and MPT Chairman Praveen Agarwal. Chairman Mr. Gaur did not meet any fishers organizations in Goa even though all the six rivers are used extensively for fishing purpose.
According to Herald dated 22/01/2010 following is reported:
g. “The development of inland waterways will include extensive dredging, night navigational facilities and construction of banks, which will compliment the ship movements along the waters.”
h. “The Central government and IWAI together will work on the development of inland water once it is nationalized.” Gaur said.”
i. “The central authority however said that Goa will have to give away its right to collect tax of Rs.100/- per tone for carrying ore in the barges.”
The Times of India of the same date 22/01/2010 reported the following:
j. “Gaur said development of the Goa’s waterways will entail dredging to provide a draft (depth) of four meters.
k. “Strong support to nationalize Goa’s waterways came from the Goa Barge owners association whose President, Atul Jadhav, explained the various constrains they operate under. Barges are grounded for days on end due to low depths, greatly reducing ore transportations in Goa, he said.”
l. “Official sources said the State government had formed a committee about eight years ago to study the benefits of nationalizing Goa’s inland waterways. The committee visited Cochin to study the development that the NWAI had done there and concluded that Goa Waterways were much more developed. The proposal was therefore selved.”
Gomantak Times of same date 22/01/2010 had additional bit of info:
m. “If Goa gets national waterways we will spend 400-500 crores required for dredging and developing riverbanks, the Chairman added.”
Navhind Times of the same date 22/01/2010 is more detailed in the matter as follows:
n. Story has a title “IWAI Chairman in State, talks held on National Waterways States”
o. IWAI Chairman Mr. S.P.Gaur visited Goa on 21/01/2010.
p. “Goa’s river potential to be expanded to facilitate bigger barges to operate.”
q. “Authority takes up drenching of the river floors, Construction of Jetties, night navigation facilities.”
r. “Under Inland Vessels Act State Government retains control of rivers.”
s. “Permission of Authority could be required to construct bridges.”
t. “Within 2-3 years inland waterways could be declared national waterways.”
u. “Government has to give consent to declare the rivers as national waterways.”
v. “IWAI is in Goa as various stakeholders requested as inland waterways had got saturated and needed solution and state government not doing anything in this regard.”
w. “Waterways and rivers are state subjects, usually centre doesn’t take any initiative”
x. “IWAI chairman met chairman of GCCI Mr. Ceasar Menezes, Barge Owner Association President Mr. Atul Jadhav, The Captain of Ports, MPT Chairman Praveen Agarwal.”
Most of the People of Goa was not aware as to what went on from 2010 upto 2016 when Goa’s rivers were declared as National Waterways. Press in Goa began to report only in the month of August 2016 when MLA Vijay Sardesai began to oppose Central Government’s decision to declare six of Goa’s rivers as National waterways. On August 09 - 10, 2016 Vijay Sardessai spoke openly against this in the Goa Legislative Assembly claiming that this decision was meant to satisfy interest of the Jindals, Vedanta and other corporate interests. He formed Goa Forward Party (GFP) and opposition to Nationalization of Goa’s rivers was one of the main election planks of the party. Party won three seats and then joined BJP. Within few weeks GFP reversed its stand on Nationalization of Goa’s rivers informing that Party has compromised with the central Government. Nature of compromise is not known to the public. Vijay’s most powerful speech in the Assembly against Nationalization of Goa’s rivers was on August 09, 2016. He continued speaking out the next day too in the Assembly. There were others who also spoke and amongst those includes Pandurang Madkaikar, the then Congress MLA of Cumbharjua Constituency.
Cheap river navigation or docile Goa’s native people?
According to Amitab Verma , (Chairman of the IWAI) “Revolution in Offing on Inland Water Transport Front”. Corporate India. May 15, 2016, P. 40-41’. Inland water transport expansion is for two reasons: Cargo transportation in cheap manner, and for tourism.
Chapora river and Sal river has been nationalized for the purpose of Tourism including potential for transportation connected to 5 star hotels and location of casinos. While the rest of rivers are known for use by mining barges. Mapusa/Moide River is used to transport ore from Paira in Bicholim while Mandovi and Zuari are routinely used by Barges for transporting ore and coal. Cumbaharjua River acts as Canal joining Mandovi and Zauri together and heavily used by mining barges.
Barges are already causing damage to Goa’s ecology
Mining barges as it are creating various kinds of problems. We here re-produce an extract from an exclusive interview of past Chairman of MPT Cyril George to Herald dated 17/06/2015:
People should also understand that there are so many shipyards not following environmental laws, besides there are barges along the Zuari river bay and each of these barges has created health hazards, environmental hazards, besides pollution. These aspects are ignored.
Now if Chairman of MPT declares that barges along with Shipyards are creating such a huge problems then what can be deducted when barge fleet expands? Deduction is very simple to understand: Multiplied health hazards, intensified environmental hazards and drastic rise in pollution.
Ecological assessment missing
The question remains: When did Goa Government gave consent to Central Government to include six of our rivers as National Waterways? Why People of Goa not consulted before granting consent to the central government in this crucial aspect? What impact will dredging of Goa’s rivers will have on ecology and livelihood of People? Did Goa Government carried on any EIA study? If yes, why it is not discussed publicly? If No. Why? Is Goa Government so careless towards ecology and its People?
How much tax Goa government is collecting per tone from barges carrying ore and coal in Goa’s rivers? How much tax Central government is collecting per tone from barges carrying ore and coal in Goa’s rivers? When did IWAI grant permissions to construct new bridges over Mandovi and Zuari rivers in Goa?
Coastal Villages specially sharing banks with rivers needs to discuss this thoroughly amongst themselves. Discussions amongst only elected members will not be sufficient as it is known fact that elected members are co-opted by various vested interests and really do not carry public interest in their way of dealings.
There is another serious implication to this aspect. IWAI as per section 28 has power to enter any building, enclosed court or garden attached to dwelling house with 24 hour notice.
More Land Acquisitions as Land grabs
As per section 26 this Authority can compulsorily acquire land using Land acquisition laws. Pretty insane proposition indeed! There is need to audit as to how much of Goa’s land is under Central Government control. This is going to be an addition. Besides there is de facto control of river bank coast of nationalized rivers with IWAI. Irrespective of the fact whether lands are demarcated or not. This is a sophisticated form of land grab of Goa’s rivers as well as attached lands.
Invisible fishing community
With central government’s direct control over six rivers of Goa, Indian government has direct stake in Goa’s majority of Geography. What are intentions of Central government and their allies in Goa is anyone’s guess. Fishermen are told to stop fishing in rivers. Instead take up big trawler and group of four fishermen take it on loan and move into deep sea for fishing. Central government’s seriousness in this matter is reflected in fact that it has crafted a full fledged scheme for this purpose named “Sagarmala”.
The question now is why should Central government go in for nationalization of rivers ruthlessly? It is because Central government is bought off by few corporate of the global elites who want to control the world. Dredging of rivers is very important step towards making the fishermen insecure and rootless. Only way fishermen can survive is through intelligent resistance and broader networking.
Fishermen are not Bamons. Bamons are in the decision making positions in various parties, organizations and government. If they had to care for the fishermen then six rivers of Goa would have never been brought under the purview of IWAI. Bamons and their parties only used this issue to gather public support and votes and they forget. This is what accomplished by Goa Forward Party (GFP). Kanshi Ram has written book many years ago titled “Chamcha Age”. It describes as to how natives of India has been made slaves of Bamon Political interests and even if they are elected they are not willing to take any steps towards liberation of India’s natives from clutches of Bamon Raj. Because of this reason Goa today has government that is illegitimate government. Minority Bamons who are foreigners to India rule over native majority of India. M.K. Gandhi fought British because they were foreigners ruling over India.
Currently there is no Political Party in Goa Assembly that speaks out the interest of Fishermen and fishing based livelihoods in a sincere genuine manner.