Khazan Agriculture System _ UPSC

Khazan Agriculture System | UPSC


Mangroves and Khazan agriculture: Sustaining Goa’s promise for fish, curry and rice

      WHY IN NEWS:

Lands under estuarine agricultural system, called Khazan farming, are in state of decay



For PRELIMS it is important to go back into History and mark some evidences and proofs of such agricultural pattern in India .

For MAINS make a mind map for this and revise this issue multiple times . It is important . Let us dive in !


After the heavy rains mangroves are reclaiming khazan lands because of breaching bunds.

Khazan Agriculture System _ UPSC IAS


  • The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is Goa’s smallest protected area.
  • It comprises barely two square kilometres of lush mangrove forests.
  • The sanctuary is located on Chorão,Goa’s estuarine islands in the Mandovi river.
  • This little gem of a mangrove park receives its fair share of visitors, primarily birds.


The sanctuary is home to :

  • Marsh crocodiles,
  • Smooth-coated otter,
  • Unique glossy-marsh snake that feeds on crabs,
  • Mud lobsters,
  • Sap-sucking sea slugs etc.


The sanctuary is on low-lying floodplains of Goa, characterised by an estuarine agricultural system called Khazan farming

  • This system is a carefully designed topo -hydro-engineered agro- aquacultural ecosystem .
  • This is mainly based on the regulation salinity and tides.


  • 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 salt water.   

  • This also killed the halophilic mangroves.
  • To control the flow of tidal waters, they built openings in bunds fitted with sluice gates.


These gates acted as one way valves, allowing water from the main backwaters to enter the specially dug channels (poiems) around the fields.

  • These channels would fill in with the oncoming tide and bring with them fish, crab and shrimp.
  • 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.
  • Usually paddy has a low tolerance to salt.
  • When the tide receded, the sluice gates would open outwards to drain out water from the poiems.
  • During this time, a bag net was set at the sluice gate to catch fish that had entered in earlier.


  • Well-managed khazan lands would not have mangroves growing within them.
  • They were allowed to continue to flourish along the outer banks of the bund.
  • Their significance for artisanal fisheries as fish nurseries was well understood.
  • 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.
  • This was the key to sustaining what is considered Goa’s staple — fish, curry and rice.


  • Khazan lands had a diverse set of owners which included government, religious bodies, private holders.

The most dominant form of Khazan land tenure pre-1961 was that of the Communidades.

  • These were community lands collectively owned and managed by the Communidade of a given area.
  • Their management involved the construction, maintenance and operation of bunds and sluice gates.
  • Communidade also issued lease of farming and fishing rights and instituting penalties for the breach of rules among many others


  • 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.

  • Also there is natural reclamation of these fallow lands by mangroves.


  • 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 coastal regulation zone (CRZ).

According to the 2011 notification, Mangrove areas are classified as CRZ I and cannot be developed upon.

  • Many of Goa’s communities look at this as a threat to the future of food production.


  • Goa’s water resource department took up the job of repairing the breached embankments.
  • Indigenous materials and methods employed.
  • The previous mud-laterite-straw bunds were replaced by concrete ones.

However, it is the failure to understand that it is not new technology, rather well-organised communities that keep this system thriving.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

Lack of community land use and bund maintenance has led to these concrete bunds being misused.

  • Some Khazan areas are being filled with earth and concrete debris .
  • The mangroves are making inroads into the fields once again.
  • The fields, which once fed entire communities, are languishing as salty waste lands.

The sanctuary represents a conservation success in many ways, demonstrating that even degraded spaces (in ecological terms), if given sufficient time, can restore themselves to their former glory.

“Building up from here rather than reinventing the wheel would be the way to go”.

     SOURCES:DownToEarth | Khazan Agriculture System | UPSC


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