Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Shot in the arm for khazans at Panaji, Taleigao, St Cruz



Around 30 experts, including members of the Goa State Biodiversity Board on Sunday deliberated on forging policies and developing a strategy to protect and manage the 'khazans' around Panaji city in Taleigao and St Cruz.  

Members of research institutions, khazan landowners and cultivators, subject matter experts among others deliberated on the findings of a study conducted by International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) on these Khazans since 2021. 

The study produced a situation analysis of the physical and governance aspects of khazans located in Panaji, Taleigao, St Cruz and Merces.   

According to Dr Pradip Sarmokadam, Sunday's exercise laid the foundation for a collaborative effort to preserve ecological and socio-economic value of these vulnerable khazan lands.

"The insights gained are expected to guide the formulation of policies and initiatives that address the identified risks, while enhancing the ecosystem services provided by khazans,” Dr Sarmokadam, who is member-secretary of Goa State Biodiversity Board, said.

Khazans are unique ecosystems located in saline flood plains in tidal estuaries reclaimed over centuries through a network of bunds and sluice gates and are unique to Goa. They are known to act as an ecological buffer while simultaneously acting as grounds for agriculture and aquaculture activity.

They also protect the surrounding areas from sea water flooding and Sunday's exercise focusing on the khazans around Panaji in Taleigao, St Cruz and Merces was intended to develop a local strategy and action plan for these khazans.

It was organised by ICLEI and supported by the Azim Premji University, Bangalore and its coordinator, Dr Monalisa Sen said: “The goal is to not only improve the condition of khazans, but also to develop a list of actionable points which will help plan both soft and hard interventions to mainstream khazan management and conservation into urban planning.” 

Integral to Goa's coastal landscape, Khazans are spread across Tiracol, Chapora, Baga in the North, the Mandovi-Zuari complex and along the Cumbarjua canal in Central Goa and the Sal, Talpona and Galgibaga rivers in South Goa. 

Eight of Goa's 12 talukas are covered by these unique ecosystems and span approximately 17,500 hectares, according to the Agriculture department data.

In recent decades, however, khazans particularly around urban centres such as Panjim have declined considerably due to developmental pressures. The development of the EDC-Patto Plazza, originally billed as Goa's 'Nariman Point' is one example of khazans disappearing to give way to modern commercial buildings.

“Focusing on grey infrastructure is no longer a viable solution in the journey to build local climate resilience. Cities must not overlook traditional nature-based solutions like khazans, a heritage ecosystem that is losing relevance despite being extremely relevant,” Ms Rithika Fernandes, Deputy Manager, ICLEI South Asia, said.

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