The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in low-lying floodplains of Goa is characterized by an estuarine agricultural system called Khazan farming.
What is it about?
The low-lying floodplains of Goa host an estuarine agricultural system called Khazan farming.
- This system is a carefully designed topo-hydro-engineered agro-aquacultural ecosystem mainly based on the regulation salinity and tides.
- Centuries ago, people in this region reclaimed low-lying brackish coastal floodplains and mangrove forests.
- They constructed bunds using locally available material to prevent the ingress of saltwater, which killed the halophilic mangroves.
- To control the flow of tidal waters, they built openings in bunds fitted with one-way gates.
- These channels would fill in with the oncoming tide and bring with them fish, crab and shrimp, and the gates would automatically shut when the water level was equal on both sides.
- This prevented the water from overflowing into the fields used to grow paddy and which has a low tolerance to salt.
- When the tide receded, these gates would open outwards automatically, allowing the water to drain out.
- During this time, a bag net was set at the gate to catch fish that had entered in earlier.
- Every bit of space was precious and used efficiently — the bunds were used to grow a variety of vegetables.
- The Khazan system allowed for the farmer and the fisher to harmoniously coexist and was the key to sustaining what is considered Goa’s staple — fish, curry and rice.
Reasons for neglect:
- Today, for various reasons, but primarily due to post-independence agrarian reforms of 1961, these lands largely lie fallow and are in a state of decay.
- Lack of cultivation and maintenance of the bunds and sluice gates is leading to their breaching and the natural reclamation of these fallow lands by mangroves.
- Moreover, mangroves are protected by law and it is illegal to cut them.Areas that have these trees growing on them also come under the purview of the coastal regulation zone (CRZ); according to the 2011 notification, the mangrove areas are classified as CRZ I and cannot be developed upon.