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Friday
Dec252009

The Mandovi River

The Mandovi river is one of the principal rivers within the Indian state of Goa and is of huge economic importance. The major earners of foreign currency for the state are metal ores (mainly iron), tourism, and fishing. The Mandovi plays a part in all three.

It should be noted that the road network is not only overcrowded, but also unsuitable for moving large quantities of bulky, or heavy, items over long distances. This would include iron ore that has to be transported to the port of Mormugao to enable its export. Much of this transportation is facilitated by the major rivers, and they are busy.

An ore carrier on the Mandovi - despite appearances it does not double as a tyre carrier

A closer view of an ore carrier

The Mandovi winds round and round, and there are numerous tributaries creating islands and communities that are all but cut off by the river. These are serviced by ferries, and demand for more ferries is very keen. Attractive they may not be, but they are vital to the local communities.

A Mandovi Ferry

And another:

Another Ferry

Goa is justifyably proud of the relatively newly completed Konkan Railway which links the state, and the south west of India, with Mumbai. Such is the demand for transportation within India, particularly for festivals, including Christmas, that the trains are often booked solid. Early in December, the Goan Times reported that every single Konkan train between then and Christmas had a waiting list of 200 people wanting seats, of any quality.

The construction of the Konkan railway necessitated the building of a new railway bridge over one of the wider, and more navigable, parts of the Mandovi.

The Konkan Railway bridge over the Mandovi

While much of the fishing for export purposes is ocean based, there is a thriving cottage industry based upon fishing the Mandovi for local consumption. There are many tidal nets based upon trapping the fish when the tide recedes. Deeper into the backwaters there are fishing huts where fishermen will base themselves overnight, or for even longer depending upon their catch.

Fisherman's Hut - Mandovi river

A little known use of the river is the exploitation of the mud, from the river bed, to be used as the basis of bricks and building material. This is a thriving local industry which appears to involve a vast amount of extremely hard work. Small boats, with a crew of perhaps 6-10 moor in mid-river and dredge the mud. Not with machinery, but by hand. A bucket type scoop is fitted to the end of a very long bamboo pole. Then in the blazing heat, individual members of the crew dredge the river until the boat is in danger of sinking under the weight of the load.

This is, without question, extremely hard work!

Another dredging boat

Once these dredging boats are full, and I mean full to the gunwales, they return to shore for unloading. This, again, will be done by hand. Individual loads will be transported in pots to the waiting lorries.

Mud boats unloading into trucks

I have enlarged part of the above picture to try and show Indian porterage - with goods being carried on the head. Because of the enlargement the quality is not brilliant, but think about the weight of the mud the porter is carrying!