Bondvol Lake, a Portuguese-era hilltop lake in Goa, will soon be declared a wetland. It will be a victory for the residents of Santa Cruz, which is a suburban area near Panjim, the capital of Goa. For the past decade, the residents have tried to save the lake which they observed started drying due to human intervention and construction projects. The Calapor comunidade, which is a land-owning institution, filed a case in the Bombay High Court seeking protection for the lake. Peter Gonsalves of the Calapor comunidade was responsible for filing the case.
A public interest litigation (PIL) was also filed in the Bombay High Court by a Santa Cruz villager Arturo D’Souza requesting the same. He is a former English and History teacher who in 2015, turned full-time social activist.
According to a 2019 report by Mongabay, other villagers also moved to the National Green Tribunal in a bid to save Bondvol Lake.
Their efforts are near fruition now as the Herald has reported that the Environment Department has issued the draft notification on the Bondvol Lake. The lake is a 110-year-old natural reservoir and collects rain and spring water over a 9.365-hectare submergence basin.
Santa Cruz resident Elsa Fernandes said that they realised that the level of the lake was dropping but could not understand the reason behind the same. Eventually, the villagers realised that the drop in the level is due to construction activities. She also adds that the tenants owning a large area of land is also a struggle in the conservation of Bondvol Lake.
Over the years, citizens of Santa Cruz put many efforts to make this dream come true. Apart from holding public meetings and bike rallies, they also mobilised others who documented the violations in the Bondvol Lake.
In 2016, Save Bondvol Lake received recognition by the members of the community. Arturo says that they had to file the petition to the High Court after they urged government authorities for conservation of the lake.
A task force was set up in 2017 by the High Court to demarcate a ‘no development’ buffer zone of 200-metre area around the lake. They were also able to attain a ‘stop work’ order against builders, which prevented the cutting of trees.
The efforts of the citizens of Santa Cruz have led to the conservation of the natural reservoir. For more such stories, you can visit Mission Paani at https://www.news18.com/mission-paani/. It is an initiative by CNN News18 and Harpic India to preserve the precious water resources of the country.
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