It is a sad reality that the once beautiful St Inez Creek -- pristine in the 1950s with its quietly flowing waters full of fish, frogs and other aquatic insects and creatures and its banks lush with greenery up to the time when I was a teenager -- is now no more.
St Inez Creek is a natural ancient drainage catchment area collecting and draining water from the Nagali Hills of the Dona Paula plateau, through Tiswadi and past Kareband St Inez, Taleigao and Panjim to the Arabian Sea. It is not a nullah. Being a natural watercourse it will always flow.
At the moment I’m in my late 70s, and can barely hold my head in both my hands. I groan at the loss of the crystal clear waters of this natural habitat. I feel sad to watch this watercourse slowly being converted into a cesspool of filthy sewage and festering garbage.
Gone are those days when I used to catch fish all along the banks of the creek and bring back Mudoche, Kalanduram, Chonkulam, Veleo, Tigur, Bombil, Sangtam etc, during my leisure hours.
I still remember returning home with freshly caught crabs too, which I used to supply to friends and neighbours along with clams and shellfish from the creek waters. I would also catch frogs from the holes along the side walls of the creek.
But today, the story is different.
It is the construction of houses and apartments along the Dona Paula plateau and all along the length of the creek that is causing the problem.
Part of the blame is also on the migrant workers whose unplanned and temporary dwellings having outdoor toilets which drain directly into the creek; while the government bureaucracy looks the other way and pretends “all is well”.
It is a known fact that these migrant shanties along the creek have no septic tanks to take care of their sewage. Also, it is not known if the bureaucracy knows which other apartment blocks on Dona Paula plateau are discharging sewage into the St Inez Creek.
They don’t seem to be bothered, because this creek is now being treated as just another nullah.
In India, if a drainage is labelled as a nullah, it is as good as condemned and untouchable simply because of the word nullah.
But this is an ancient natural watercourse which once brought beauty to Panjim and Tiswadi. It must be treated in the civil engineering planning as an aquifer replenisher, different from the civic and town planning of a sewage system of a young upcoming city like Panjim.
The immediate steps to be taken would be to arrest the flow of the sewage into the creek so that bacterial disease from the sewage does not contaminate the fresh water aquifer under Panjim, Tiswadi, Taleigao and Merces, which replenishes the numerous fresh water wells and where we celebrate the cultural feast of San Joao.
In two months time politicians will be writing about rejuvenating the St Inez creek in their newly minted manifesto. We have seen how the JNNRUM mission totally failed and now we are seeing the Smart City along with the Imagine Panjim project deceiving Panjimites.
The lollipops offered to voters in the name of St Inez creek are becoming stale, and yet the politicians keep offering them. What can Panjim voters expect from these deceitful MLAs?
Everybody knows that apart from the Creek, the Captain of Ports is building a three-floor terminal at the Panjim jetty to service the casino lobby. I hope this is not going to be another white elephant where Panjimites will be made to suffer.
The time is right for residents of Panjim to wake up and do something to save Panjim and Mandovi River from utter chaos and destruction of ecosystem and biodiversity.
Recently, it was reported that the St Inez Creek would be rejuvenated by IFFCL. This is a big joke and announced just before the Assembly elections as it is simply impossible to complete cleaning and desilting of the creek in a few months before elections.
If unregulated high rise buildings are allowed to continue in the creek’s catchment area in future there could be flooding because the natural flow of water will be interrupted. There would also be a huge pollution problem, an ecological damage and the collapse of weak structures along the creek leading to disaster for the very people living there.
(The writer is a social activist)