Water wars

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The heavy influx of tourists into sleepy, coconut tree-fringed Saligao is no longer welcome. This Goan village has not been able to live down the reputation it acquired in the late 1960s as a popular hippy haunt. To this day, it is a riotous and overgrown tourism centre. It is perhaps this pressure on resources that saw the Saligao gram sabha exploding over the issue of large-scale illegal sale of groundwater.

Saligao is, in fact, just one of the many villages hit by the state government's inability to put in place an effective centralised water supply scheme. They are hit by a double-whammy: poor water supply from government schemes and depletion of groundwater in their area due to commercial sales. Water, sold by the tankerful for a few paise per litre, is sucked up by a resource-hungry tourism sector, as also the real estate and industrial sectors.

The villagers are, however, not willing to give up without a fight. The village panchayat set up a five-member Well Water Inquiry Committee to study illegal extraction and sale of groundwater. The gram sabha has agreed on the inquiry report of the committee. Its minutes read, "It is unanimously decided