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Geography of Goa

Geography & Geology

Goa occupies a narrow strip of the western indian coastline, approximately 105km long and 65km wide, with a total area of 3701 sq km. It shares state borders to the north and northeast with Maharashtra, and to the south and southeast with Karnataka. Administratively the state is divided up into two districts - north and south Goa - with the major towns in each being Panaji (formerly Panjim, the state capital) and Margao (formerly Madgaon) respectively. Beyond this simple subdivision the state is further divided into 11 talukas: Pernem, Bi-cholir, Satari, Bardez, Tiswadi and Ponda lie in north Goa, while Mormugao, Salcete, Sanguem, Quepe and Canacona are in the south.

Geography of Goa can be divided into three distinct areas: the Western Ghats, the midland region and the coastal region.
A major portion of Goa's landforms have basaltic outflows of the Deccan Lavas and having flat topped summit levels with terraced flanks and wide valleys with sides rising as a succes­sion of steps rather than smooth slopes. On the eastern side, the Sahyadrian scarp is steep perhaps due to a peculiar natural process which created the western flank of the Sahyadri as a whole.

In fact, the Geography of the basalts, in their detail is attributed to weathering and water erosion on a somewhat intense scale combined with impact of seasonal changes. As a result of this, residual hill features with rounded summits like the Chandranath Hill and smaller knolls are, often, noticeable in the mountain tracts of Goa Further, laterisation, due to tropical moist climate with seasonal changes brings out a significant feature of the Goan landscape. And, in both the high and low level plateaux of the Sahyadrian region, laterite caps are associated with iron and manganese deposits which, in turn, contribute to the economic development of Goa state Another important aspect is the alluvia via deposits along the course of Goan rivers on the coastal plains.

Western GhatsGeography & Geology
In the east of the slate lie The foothills and some of the peaks of the Western Ghats, the mountain range that runs along the west coast of India, separating the Deccan Plateau from the low- lying coastal areas In Goa, the Western Ghats, made up locally of Ihe Sahyadri range. comprise ahout 600 sq km of the total area of the state. Some of the main peaks are Sonsagar (1166m), Catlanchimauli (1107m), Vaguerim (1067m) and Morlemchogor (lO.Vnn). All seven ol (ioa's main rivers (Ihe longest of which, the Mandovi, is only 77km in length) have their sources in Ihe Ghats.

Midland Region
Between the Ghats and the coast lies Goa's hinterland, a huge area mostly made up of laterite plateaus of between 30m and 100m in elevation. The laterite rock that comprises much of Goa is nearest to the surface on many of these plateaus, and since it is rich in both iron and manganese ores, the plateaus have become the scenes of large-scale open-cast mining.

Spice, fruit and area nut plantations have become established in this region, par­ticularly in the lower areas where soil is richer. Making efficient use of the water sources available, the terraced orchards support coconut palms and fruits such as jack fruit, pineapples and mangoes.

Coastal RegionGeography & Geology
Goa's coastline is a scenic combi­nation of bays and headlands broken by large estuaries of the Mandovi and Zuari rivers, coupled with minor streams. Of the Bays, the Baga, Calang-ute, and Colva are long curved stretches of white beach sands and palm fringes which seem to be Goa's magnet, drawing tourist to this land of scenic beauty.

Despite only making up a fraction of the total area of the state, the coastal region is undoubtedly the best known to most of Goa's visitors.

Lining the sides of many of Goa's tidal rivers are mangroves that thrive on the saline soil, and provide a unique habitat for buds and marine animals. The inland areas, known to the Goans as the khazans, are lands reclaimed by the building of "bunds' in embankments. The skilful placement of sluices mid floodgates allows the use of the land to be controlled. While the majority of land is irrigated using fresh water, many of the drainage canals are allowed to fill atlest partially with salt water, so that they can be be used for fish farming. Other areas are allowed to food with salt water, which is then left to evaporate for the collection of salt 

Goa's fine, long beaches have green patches of coconut plantations, grasses and scrubs which thrive on salty soil and lateritic bluffs. And, moving north to south, one could find some of Goa's more important promonitories such as the Tiracol, Chapora, Aquada, Caba, Marmugoa and Cape Ramas: this land­scape also has the ruins of centuries old structures, now in a state of dis­use. Dona Paola, at the southern end of the Cabo overlooks the estuary of the Zuari and provides a location of natural visual, beauty and offers ferry connections across the Zuari estuary's mouth mainly to the Marmugoa har­bour. The promonotory below which the Marmugoa Harbour has been built is a largish, extensive table-land where Goa airport is located, also.

In this region, the cliff-and-beach landscape changes to belts of fertile alluvium, through sandbars and abrupt lateritic slopes - and these are rich cultivable lands, good for agri­cultural purposes and also for fish­ing. It is here that several economi­cally well-off villages have sprung up e.g. Querim, Morgim, Calangute, Nerul, Benaulim and Carmona. While economic prosperity of these villages is, no doubt, due to the people who live there, prosperity is also attributable to a large number of persons returning to these lands after retirement: the bond between the Home and Goa is a unique feature of Goa and the Goan people.

With population growth and economic prosperity, these tracts of land, in turn, attract building activity along the many roads that have been built in these areas. In the north the Betim Porvorim extension and Mapusa town are important; the centre has the Cabo Altinho (Panaji) extension and the south has the Marmugoa Plateau. It is in this region that modern buildings, colleges, schools, factories etc. have been built -- mainly after Liberation ~ and these structures are in contrast to old churches and the Holy Cross at prominent elevations, reminding one of Goa's Latin past. Some of the more important towns in this locality are:

» Mapusa:
This is a town that is at the base of a lateritic plateau and is rapidly developing into one of Goa's major commercial centres.

» Panaji:
This the administrative headquarters or Capital of Goa. Panaji is located almost at the geographical centre of fine semi-circle of the District of Goa.

» Margoa:
This is also located at the base of the laterite table-land. Physically, this site marks the place where the water moves away from the Sal's sourthern stream and the northern drainage.

» Marmugao Port and Vasco da Gama:
These two towns are grouped under one administration and both have the same linear expansion along the railway line. The Port is one that has natural protection against the onslaught of monsoonal winds, thanks to the table and behind it; an extended sea-wall gives ships better berthing facilities while the estuary is one that is generous for its anchorage facilities for vessels. And, in turn, this facilitates exports of minerals from Goa one of the major activities of the Port. Vasco da Gama is a residential-cum-commercial area with several banks, commercial houses, hotels, and restaurants and with the growth of commerce, this area tends to be overcrowded, coupled with dusty settlements of industrial and commercial labour hutments etc.

» Southern Coastlands:
In appearance, these coastlands are similar to the northern ones but the distinguishing factor is that of economic development. Several streams drain the Southern Coastlands - mainly the Talpona and the Galgibaga rivers - and these provide good facilities for cultivation and have rural settlements on both sides. Villages in these coastlands tend to be small agricultural and fishing ones e.g. Chauri, which is an administrative centre is really a glorified village but could 'pass off as a town. The Highway which runs through the north to the southern border and then onto Karwar moves through this region, giving rise to economic developments.

The Goan Sahyadris
The Goan Sahyadris occupy approximately 600 sq.kms. at an average height of 800 metres. From the plains of Goa and looking eastwards, the Sahyadri mountains give the impression of a wall with peaks appearing in odd places: most of these peaks have traditional names while the water-divide acts as the origin for most of Goa's many rivers. Many of the scarps are steep with several waterfalls.
The Dudhsagar Waterfall is one of Goa's most wellknown cascades. Some of the other peaks are:

Sonsagar '(in the north) at 3,827 above sea-level (ASL), Catlan-chimauli: 3,633' ASL, Vaguerim. 3,500' ASL, Morlemchogor. 3,400' ASL. These peaks are mainly in the Sa-tari taluka while in the east and the west, Goa has the Siddhanath at Ponda, Chandranath at Paroda, Consid at Astagar and Dudhsagar at Latambarcem.

The central area of Goa mainly consists of low-level plateaux whose heights are in the region of 30 to 100 metres. These Goan plateaux seem to have a scenery that is typical of Goa: plateaux with sharp rims; scrap slopes marking quick transition to alluvial plains; and, on the coastline, lateritic plateaux end in headlands: the Aguada, Cabo and Marmugoa heights are typical examples which appear both in the notth and the south. The lateritic plateaux, which have very shallow soils, have only rough grass and shrubs growing on them - these plant life usually appear in small patches with frequent exposures of hard, slangy, magenta coloured later-ite: this laterite - locally known as 'Jamba' - is used for house construc­tion and building of compound walls since they are easily cut and dressed when quarried and, later, harden, on weathering.

The Geography of these plateaux present a picture of flat rolling levels while carps and hollows of the gullies are good for vegetation having strands of monsoonal forests. An interesting feature of the later­ite plateaux of Goa is their having small areas of grass and thinly spread cashew shrubs and, quite often, a small church or a cross in its vicinity. Further patches of greenery are sometimes provided by coconut palms, betel and coconut gardens: this scenery often forms part of the landscape where the plateau base and the alluvial flats, below, merge into one piece of land.

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