Some of Goa's rivers are so polluted, that if someone is thrown into one, he or she would die of pollution, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday told an activist opposing inclusion of Goa's major rivers in the Inland Waterways Authority of India's list.
Parrikar was speaking at a heated interaction with activists and state's elected representatives, which also saw 'black mask' protests by activists opposing increased coal transportation and 'nationalisation' of the state's rivers and their inclusion in the Authority's list.
After the Chief Minister was told by an activist that the interaction did not serve any purpose, because the Goa government in 2015 had already agreed to the six rivers being included in the Authority's list and therefore it amounted to tying "a stone around our neck and already throwing us in the rivers", Parrikar responded with a sharp riposte.
"There is no need to tie a stone around your neck and throw you in the river. You will die even if you fall in the river. If you fall in the Sal river you will die quickly. There is so much pollution," Parrikar said.
The state government is in the final stages of entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Mormugao Port Trust, Inland Waterways Authority of India and Captain of Ports (Goa government) which will make way for nationalisation of Chapora, Sal, Mapusa, Pomburpa, Mandovi and Zuari rivers in Goa.
The move has seen sustained opposition from state's fishing communities, opposition politicians as well as activists, who are accusing the state government of nationalising the state's rivers in order to facilitate increased transporation of coal for three major coal importing companies, who operate from the Mormugao Port Trust, the only major port facility in the state.
During the interaction, Parrikar however said, that only the Parliament of India had the power to revert the decision on inclusion of Goa's rivers in the Authority's list and not the state assembly.
"The act has already come in force in 2016... Power is with the Parliament. Goa Assembly does not have the power to declare national waterways. It is with the central government, according to the Constitution," he said, adding that those opposing the inclusion of the six rivers in the list can lobby with Members of Parliament.
The Chief Minister also said, that while the central government, as per the MoU will manage river navigation, majority of the powers will remain vested with state authorities.
Parrikar also said that opposition to inclusion of rivers with the Authority's list had not surfaced in other Indian states. A total of 111 rivers have been included in the Inland Waterways Authority of India list.
He said that attempts were being made to create confusion by vested interests, who were trying to use the phrase 'nationalisation of rivers', to muddy the waters.
"Nationalisation is a word being used on purpose by some people to create confusion," Parrikar said.