Sal River Improvement

 Aug, 10 - 2014   projects

The problem…

The river Sal, and the quality of its water, is of paramount importance to the economic and social well-being of the whole taluka (municipality) of Salcette in the Goa Province in India. The Benaulim area in particular notices a lot of pollution in the river because it is the first village after the river passes past Margao, the biggest city in South Goa . The quality of the water of this river is lowered due to severe pollution, mainly by non-industrial and non-toxic organic material, causing a massive eutrophication of this water mass. This inflow of organic pollutants is caused by leakage from agriculture, the dumping of agricultural waste, the dumping of organic waste from houses and hotels and the uncontrolled inflow of untreated waste water. As a consequence of this, the extensive growth of Salvinia (Salvinia molestes) aquatic weed plants, at some parts of the season for large parts of the river completely covers  the free water surface of the river. This is making fishing, navigation, the extraction of good quality water and other uses of the river almost impossible. The blocking of sunlight to the lower water levels also indirectly causes several other biological and water quality problems. This problem is in general terms very similar to the problems with water hyacinths in other tropical parts of the world. In the short run, the removal of the aquatic weed  will diminish the problem temporarily, by both getting a free water surface and also contributing to the removal of organic material from the water. In a longer perspective, of course the natural way of action is to stop the inflow of organic nutrients to the river, by making relevant stake-holder change their mode of production, the technologies used and waste disposal procedures conducted  that causes the main problem – the pollution of the river. When doing this, the whole catchment area of the river must be considered, which may extend the scope of the problem to a much larger geographical area that the taluka of Salcette.

The solution…

Today we need new technical-practical solutions to problems of environmental degradation, where the practical measures not only reduce the problems, but also support economic and social development. This is the key issue in sustainable development. We also need to integrate new technology and traditional, nature-based methods in agriculture, fisheries and biological production in general in order to make sustainable production and consumption a reality.

Fortunately, there exist today a large and growing amount of information on innovative project results, good practices in sanitation and waste management, or good examples of both technical and biological methods of production, not only in the industrialised countries, but also in the South and in the fast-growing economies of Asia. This information is widely accessible via the web: Many organizations, both those with an environmental and a developmental perspective provide information on interesting case studies, project results and practical solutions. Some examples of these innovative new ways of integrating ecological, economic and social development on the practical level is provided in Annex A. However, in general this information is scattered, non-structured and in general hard to get an overview of. But with some support, also local and regional stake-holders may easily get access to this practical information and inspiring case studies.

But information in itself, however relevant and accessible it is, is not enough for social and economic change. A local process with the main stakeholders and a local core organization as primus motor is necessary, enabling a learning process, local negotiations with stakeholders and an adaptation of innovative front-end  solutions to the context of Benaulim and Goa. To combine the bottom-up approach, with central support, education and capacity-building should be a feasible way forward.

The Project…

The basic aim of the project is to organize a step-wise process of identifying the problems, possible practical solutions to them, a screening process with an informal evaluation of their respective merits and feasibility, and finally a plan for the implementation of a few selected “new solutions”.

A tentative structure for the steps of this project is:

  1. Establishing a good description of the problem, i e which activity/stake-holder is causing what pollution problem, including a rough estimate of the magnitude of this particular disturbance.
  1. Establishing a perspective on environmental problems/solutions related to social and economic development (employment opportunities, income generation and indirect economic effects, e g better conditions for tourism. Further, on a more detailed level establishing a general consensus of what positive economic and social effects the reduction of the pollution problem would cause, e g all year round boat traffic on the Sal river could generate revenues from tourism, extended fishing periods would generate incomes locally from village-level fishing, better water quality would reduce work absence due to water-borne diseases etc.
  1.  Establish  a general consensus of what types of  practical measures/technical and biological solutions are possible and desirable. The aim of this exercise is to drive home the facts that:

a)      There exist a large number of “environmental solutions” that actually provide economic and social benefits, either by getting economic revenue out of products based on waste – or by make new income-generating activities possible when the acute environmental problems are reduced or eliminated.

b)      Waste and pollution are in many cases a misplaced resource, if considered in a new and different systemic context. This is particularly relevant in regard to eutrophicated rivers, where the pollutants are basically organic matter or leakage of fertilizer nutrients, which have a value placed elsewhere in eco-cycles.

c)      There exist a large number of  solutions based on a more  advanced sustainability thinking, stressing the importance of utilising waste or designing production processes in biological production to eliminate waste totally, by using all outputs from processes as either final products or as input to other production processes. This way of thinking is basically very much in accordance with many traditional food production methods in tropical Asia. However, is some cases these schemes may need to be re-emphasised or re-discovered.

Many practical examples will illustrate the possibility and practicality of the principles mentioned above – driving  the point home that environmental problems can be transformed to opportunities.

  1. A number of practical, innovative examples/case studies will be provide to the local group, drawing strongly on collections of “good practice” and project results from innovative project-oriented programmes. In particular, the experiences and project results of the ZERI  (Zero Emissions Research Initiative) project, founded  by the UN University will be drawn upon. Also other sources of information will be used, in particular results from programmes of donor organizations aimed at environmental and/or developmental issues and from existing  collections of case studies of “best practice” or “success stories” available on the web. These examples may include e g:

- Waste water fed gardens

- The utilization of aquatic weeds for composting, green manure, biogas production or fiber (paper) production

- The utilization of aquatic biomass for feeding animals, either directly or via production of earth worms or insect larvae.

- Innovate processing of organic waste from villages, hotels and public institutions.

- New practices for sanitation, drawing on the experiences of the EcoSanRes project on ecological sanitation, co-sponsored by the Swedish SIDA.

- The creative use of waste and by-products of local food processing facilities.

5. These “possible solutions” will be informally evaluated by the Local Group, with strong support from the Support Group in a number of capacity-building discussions and study meetings, using criteria such as

- Is this method technically feasible in Goa?

- Is the necessary resource input (investment costs, operational and maintenance costs, competence) of a reasonable magnitude and locally or regionally available?

- Is this “solution” consistent with the principles established in step 3 above?

- Are there social or cultural obstacles to the implementation?

- What are the social and economic benefits? Short-term? Long-term?

- To what degree does this solution actually reduce or eliminate the underlying environmental problem?

- What will the possible negative and positive reactions of the relevant stake-holders be?

- What are the possibilities for replication of this method/technology/tool in other parts of the region? In India? Other nations?

- Etc.

In order to make this into a true capacity-building experience, the proven method of PBL (Problem-Based Learning) will be applied to the work of the groups. This pedagogical method is especially well adapted to health and environmental educations for adults, and has its strength in mobilising the collective competence of the whole group.

6. The evaluation step 5 above will reduce the number (3-5) feasible concrete project proposals. Based on these tentatively evaluated “new solutions”, the Local Group will produce

a)      A description of the core project idea for each “new solution”, together with a consistent argumentation for its potential and benefits.

b)      An informal negotiation plan for the involvement and support of the most relevant stake-holders for each “new solution”.

c)      An informal business plan for those solutions that will generate employment and income, including an outline for the forming of micro-forms and/or co-operatives to operate the proposed systems and canalise the possible income streams.

d)     An Action Plan for the implementation of these practical projects that are  expected  to have a stronger  social than economic impact.

7. The implementation phase of each “new solution” will mark the end of this capacity-building project, and the start of 3-5 smaller, practical implementation activities.

These activities may need a new project structure, new donor engagement and a new set of financing measures and also of new skills of the participants.


Each step of the project will result in some kind of “deliverables”

Step 1: A basic description of the environmental status of the river Sal

Step 2: A positive description of all the positive economic and social benefits the aimed for environmental improvement will results in.

Step 3: A documentation of the characteristics for the possible sustainable solutions will all have in common

Step 4: A documentation of a large number of innovative case studies or examples that could be applied in Goa

Step 5. A set of criteria established in a selection process

Step 6: A document of final project choices, negation plan, informal business plan, Action Plan for socially motivated projects

A Methods Experiences Report, drawing on experiences from all project steps.

Project participants and organisation

1. The Benaulim Environmental Trust (BET),  chaired by Mr Tony Correia-Alfonso , in the following referred to as the Local Group

Providing the basic local and regional knowledge and the primary beneficiary of the project

2. The Liaison Officer, Mr Jorn Hammarstrand

Acting as a bridging link locally and regionally, aiding both the local and support group, communicating with stake-holders

3. The Support Group, Mr Ulf E Andersson and partners in Sweden, working intermittently locally but primarily in Sweden

Providing central project support, implementing the method of PBL and supporting documentation of positively chosen case studies, helping the local group with perspective generation and knowledge acquisition.

The core competences and resources of the total project group

A good overview of environmental technologies, system solutions, project results and practical tools for sustainability, and a good overview of reference sources for this kind of information  (primarily the Support Group).

A broad perspective connecting environmental issues and the promotion of ecological sustainability to economic and social development. (primarily the Support Group).

An expertise in the process of identifying, selecting and describing “good examples” and innovative project results (primarily the Support Group).

A good knowledge of regional an local circumstances in the Benaulim area, the taluka of Salcette and the Province of Goa regarding social structures, the stake-holder situation and the current issues, problems and  opportunities related to the agenda for the environmental policy development and economic and social development (primarily the Local Group).

A good understanding  of group processes and local mobilization (primarily the Liaison Officer, in the educational context aided by the Support Group).

Good networking capacity, both in the local community and between those representing the local practice those  having experiences  relevant for the project from the international project community and the research community. (The Local Group and the Liaison Officer).

Project resources and time-table

To be written after initial meeting in Goa in November 2004


To be provided from the Swedish SIDA, the International Aid Agency. The funding will shared between BET/The Local Group, The Liaison Officer and the Support Group

Tools and methods

All steps of the project will be guided by (but not kept slavishly adherent to) different methods and tools relevant for this project. They include

  • The Practical Methods for Problem based Learning
  • The Public Participation Techniques the Guidance Document on Public Participation in relation to the EU Water Framework Directive
  • Inspiring examples of Public Participation in water Management Projects
  • The Swedish EPA Evaluation The Power of Example – an evaluation of how examples of best practices, good examples and success stories are used in the work for sustainability
  • Guides for starting new, small-scale cooperatives

Project monitoring and evaluation

To be done mainly by the Support Group, based on informal Evaluation Sheets done regularly in the work of the Local Group, and also by feed-back sessions.

Dissemination of Project results   

Based on

The main report from step 6

The Methods Experiences Report

The inclusion of the selected project examples/results on web-based information sources/collections of good examples/best practices world-wide

Project goals and objectives

There are a number of goals and objectives this project is intended to satisfy:

a)      Promoting the perspective that the protection of the environment  is seen as an opportunity, not primarily as a restriction to economic and social development.

b)      Local and regional capacity-building

c)      Promoting low- and middle-tech system solutions to water quality problems, with a preference for solutions which integrate biological processes with conventional technology

d)     Empowering people by appropriate use of web-based information

e)      Fostering a group-based knowledge acquisition and decision-making process

f)       Utilizing knowledge from the universities and research organizations, connecting researchers and practitioners.

g)      Utilizing knowledge from top runner projects, “best practice”-experiences and good examples world-wide, primarily from donor organisations programmes for environmental issues, sustainability programmes and social/economic development programmes

h)      Supporting sustainable solutions, i e those that both serve the environmental interest together with economic and social development

i)        Promoting innovative environmental solutions based on e g the ZERI concept developed by the UN University

These mainly qualitative goals, will be complemented with some quantative goals of number of participants, divided on categories, including women and un-employed. A monitoring of qualitative and quantitative results will be include in the final report.

Annex A

In this annex, a number of suitable case studies, which are in some respect front solution, ”good examples or may be labeled as ”best practice” are cited, to give an example of what types of examples/case studies woukld be chosen in the project.

What these examples have in common, is that they are

  • Found in Tropical countries world-wide,
  • Could be relevant to the situation in the Goa Province
  • Makes significant contributions to environmental improvement, and also exemplifies significant environmental policy principles, e g recycling
  • Also have significant positive economic and social effects
  • Where significant amounts of information could be found on the Internet

In this phase of the project, these examples should be seen only as illustrative examples, just in order to demonstrative what types of examples could be used in the project proper.

Example 1:  Waste Water Gardens

DEP (Indonesian Development and Education and Permaculture) has designed and installed effective treatment systems, which do not require chemicals, and are self sustaining. These systems turn “black” water into clear clean water suitable for many uses. The implementation of this system throughout the area will dramatically improve the quality of the ground water available to the community

Example 2: Water hyacinths: turning a weed into a win-win situation

In Thailand, this former waterway pest is fueling agriculture, exports – and more research. The flower doubles its biomass in less than two weeks and will completely coat the surface of rivers, lakes and canals, crowding out native flora and fauna and clogging boat motors. Other infested parts of the world have attempted to eliminate the nuisance with herbicides and insect predators. For decades, Thailand also adopted this approach, but the end result was invariably time-consuming removal and dumping of the weeds.

In the last few years, however, the water hyacinth is being viewed in a new light. Suhsuttijed Chantrasiri, researcher at Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR), explains. “The object of our research was how to use what we would normally waste.” So along with the Thai Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment, TISTR worked hard to make alternate uses of the water hyacinth profitable.

Several utilization programs began in 1992 and have recently transformed the image of the weed.

  • Decaying water hyacinth was found to be the perfect medium to cultivate valuable straw mushrooms (hed fang in Thai).
  • Because it rots in 15 days, it is an ideal component in fertilizer. Weed harvested from the Bangkok area is used in a new fertilizer factory to provide low cost organic fertilizer for farms.
  • But the real success, both economically and in terms of eliminating the weed, lies in the field of wickerwork. Wicker items made from the stems have proved extremely popular in Germany and Japan, where environmentally friendly products are fashionable. Rural farmers can gain valuable extra income from wickerwork in the off-season. The success of wickerwork sales has in fact caused a shortage of water hyacinth and, incredibly, the weed must be brought in from other areas to maintain production levels.

While the aggressive weed is still far from being a cash crop and is still a pest in some regions, few would have guessed ten years ago that it could ever be in demand. In Chaninat Province, water hyacinth is actually being cultivated to produce the long stems that are best for wickerwork.

(This example refers to water hyacinths, but most probably this could also be applied to Salvinia) .

Example 3 : Biogas production from Salvinia

World’s Worst Weed (Salvinia) : Its Impact and Utilization/S.A. Abbasi.

Prof. Abbasi and Dr. Nipaney have spent over a decade studying the ecology and control of salvinia, also in India. They have also conducted the first-ever systematic studies on the productivity of the weed and have extensively explored, perhaps more than any other team in the world, ways and means of utilising the weed with a view to control it in an environmentally compatible manner. This book embodies the essence of their work.”

Example 4: Helping disadvantaged people turning a weed into a resource

How researchers of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, teach AIDS orphans to grow mushroom on water hyacinth substrates, thus enabling them to secure sustainable livelihoods.

Example 5 : The ZERI Brewery

A traditional brewery of today, that brews beer according to the German purity standards, produces beer, but also produces organic waste streams and lost energy. This waste from the brewery is organic material which means that its polluting effect could be seen as minimal. However, given the quantity of water needed for the large volumes of beer produced by today´s breweries (up to more than 20 litres of water per litre of brewed beer), this organic waste is a problem. It is also a waste considering the amount of nutrients and protein used from the grains in the beer-brewing process. A small percentage of the nutrients are used, and the protein is left untouched in the spent grains after the process. One usage for the spent grains that is occasionally explored is that of animal feed. This is not an optimal use, though, as the spent grains are tough for the animals to digest. The result is indigestion and added amounts of methane gas emitted into the atmosphere by the animals

Spent grains are rich in fibres and protein and are an excellent substitute for flour in bread. When mixed with other fibres such as rice straw, they are also a valuable ingredient in the substrate for the growing of mushrooms. This fact is the first step enabling ZERI to generate additional value in the form of mushrooms or bread. (The world market for mushrooms is already larger than that of coffee.)

The advantage of growing mushrooms on the spent grains is that mushrooms will make the spent grains more digestible to livestock and will also increase the protein content. This will thus increase growth of animals and quality of meat.

Next, the waste from livestock will be flushed into a digester with the waste water from the brewery. The digester generates two outputs: biogas and a nutrient solution. The biogas is stored in gas tanks and can be used in the brewery or sold. The nutrient solution will flow into shallow basins where algae, through photosynthesis, will digest it. These algae that have grown and multiplied on the nutrients will then flow into a fish pond and become feed for fish. The fish pond itself emulates nature with different species living at different depths. With some fish swimming from the surface to the bottom, this guarantees a healthy system functioning much like any wild lake without the need for antibiotics.

What is then the total effect? By generating value added in a cascading manner, ZERI used all the nutrients, protein and fibre from the spent grains, and the water from the process as a purification method. ZERI changed the concept of waste into that of a valuable resource to create more jobs, more income and a better environment.

Example 6  Ecological Sanitation

A large number of people, in urban as well as in rural areas, have no proper sanitation. An international group of planners, architects, engineers, ecologists, biologists, agronomists and social scientists have developed an approach to sanitation that saves water, does not pollute and returns the nutrients in human excreta to the soil. We call this approach ‘ecological sanitation’, or ‘eco-san’ for short. The major global challenges faced by the sanitation sector are the many people without sanitation, the health effects of poor sanitation, water shortage and pollution, food insecurity, urban growth and the inadequacy of current sanitation options.

Sewage discharges from centralized, water-borne collection systems are a major component of water pollution all over the world. Pollutants also leak into groundwater from sewers, septic tanks, pit toilets and cesspools.

In today’s urban societies the flow of plant nutrients is linear: nutrients are taken up from the soil by the crop, transported to the market, eaten, excreted and discharged. In a sustainable society the production of food must be based on returning the plant nutrients to the soil. The use of chemical fertilizers is not sustainable, since their production relies on non-renewable resources.

Inadequacy of current options

The sanitation practices promoted today are either based on hiding human excreta in deep pits (‘drop-and-store’) or on flushing them away and diluting them in rivers, lakes and the sea (‘flush-and-discharge’).

Ecological sanitation is based on three fundamental principles: preventing pollution rather than attempting to control it after we pollute; sanitizing the urine and the faeces; and using the safe products for agricultural purposes. This approach can be characterized as ‘sanitize-and-recycle’.

A large number of practical examples are described in this project. The project is financed by Swedish SIDA.

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