In a heartwarming endeavour to revive the ponds drying up in Goa, Harshada Kerkar, an artist in her fifties and her niece, Sharada Kerkar, a Goan artist in her twenties started an environmental initiative with the help of migrant workers who have lost their employment in the raging coronavirus pandemic, reported Scroll.
The idea started when Harshada noticed that the buffaloes and other cattle had no water to drink from in the pond of Saligao village in Goa. The village has over 1500 homes, and around 30 in the vicinity of the pond. Growing up, she remembered every village in Goa having a pond for the animals to drink from, and the farmers to use to water their crops, added the report.
Sharada as a social sector worker managed the fundraising, logistics and administrative responsibilities. The project is currently community funded. Harshada was responsible for mobilising the community, expanding the group’s network and hiring labor, added the report.
The lockdown gave the duo the opportunity to identify key waterbodies that have been slowly disintegrating, and come up with a plan for revival of these spots as biodiversity hotspots, and to help bring back rare, indigenous species who couldn’t survive the contamination and water shortage of the waterbodies in Goa.
They joined hands with other environmentalists including Goan architect Hyacinth Pinto, who brought in structural expertise in deepening the ponds and building walls.
The team, on 1 May 2020 in the first month of the project hired 15 migrants who were in dire need of employment since their daily wages were lost during the lockdown. “When the workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were afraid to jump into the water, the ones from West Bengal, who knew how to swim well, came to the rescue”, told Sharada to Scroll.
The migrants brought in their own expertise for the pilot phase which lasted until 15 June. They worked on draining the ponds, cleaning them, and repairing or building the boundary walls, and so far, three wells and two ponds have been revived. The next phase aims to revive eight more ponds, added the report.
The initiative also provided employment opportunities for the Lamani (Banjara) women who lost their income of collecting bottles and waste due to the shortfall of tourists in the state, according to the report.
The villages neglect maintaining the water bodies which are usually community owned. With tourism straining Goa’s already low water supply, what makes matters worse is the sewage drains of nearby homes being emptied into the waterbodies, as well as the dumping of dry waste, noted Scroll.
(With inputs from Scroll)
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