05 Feb 2023  |   07:14am IST

Those who love Goa should just let Goa be

More roads, bridges gated communities, and tall buildings doesn’t make Goa better; do we want Goa as a dry, tree-less desert through which trains and trucks of coal and iron ore pass to other States and countries?
Those who love Goa should just let Goa be

Can our tiny Goa take the tsunami of development and infrastructure to an extent that we do not have our Goa anymore? Can we go for a walk on our beaches and see them jet black with pieces of glass cutting our feet? And more importantly, can we actually present Goa as a tourist destination by destroying the destination itself? And as Goans watch this and read terms like 10,000 crores CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) on bridges roads, buildings, and massive residential complexes, they may well wonder when we will spend a little on HUMEX which is Human Expenditure. And Human expenditure is not about spending. It’s about saving Goa for Goans.

Saving Goa for Goans

The veteran and inimitable Jug Suraya, one of India’s finest storytellers and columnists displayed his ‘Goan’ heart when he wrote in his latest column, “It’s because I like Goa so much that I don’t want to own a piece of it.  If I did such a thing, as so many non-Goans are doing, Goa will lose its distinctive charm, its Goan-ness, which is what makes it so attractive for me.”

 Goan-ness can only be saved if Goans feel at home in their own land which does not seem and feel the same anymore. And the reasons are real, not imaginary.

Will the thousands of crores be used for a Singapore model with the Shah Jahan model of project allotment?

Why does Goa need the Singapore model of tourism by sacrificing Goa’s own simple beautiful model? And does it need to execute this Singapore model by allotting projects the Shah Jahan way? All in Goa know what this way is, introduced by a visionary minister.

Across Goa, the race to spend hundreds and thousands of crores only for “infrastructure” should make us ask the fundamental question of whether our tiny beautiful land, enveloped by nature has the capacity to hold so much infrastructure. The quantum of infrastructure present and proposed will surely come at a cost and sacrifice. What will be sacrificed are our pristine lands, our farms, and even our rivers, lakes, and forests to make way for this “development”.

In its place will be gated communities, and large multiplexes built after cutting hills and 8-lane highways on what were once farmlands, ropeways, convention centres and theme parks.

Land will be acquired and compensation shall not be paid as cases on land titles will be stuck in court. Coal wagons on doubled tracks will spew coal dust choking our families and damaging homes. Our forests will be ravaged, our rivers flowing through wildlife sanctuaries will be diverted and our fish will perish with increased levels of salinity in our remaining rivers.

Destructive development is tearing the soul of Goa 

& Goans

As more money is pumped for infrastructure, there’s less money for our farmers and fishermen. When bunds are broken and saline water enters their fields and destroys their crops, they go knocking on several official doors for compensation that takes months and years to come. While Goa sees high-end hotel chains commit to putting in Rs 300 crore for expansion, farmers wait for thousands as reimbursement fixing bunds with their own money and hands. At the same time, our pristine heritage is getting destroyed brick by brick. From homes to buildings, to works of art and heritage areas, everything is crumbling at the feet of the onward march of rampant destructive development which is tearing the soul of Goa and Goans.

There are trawlers with LED lights coming and sucking out fish from Goan waters, but there’s no urgency or money to buy patrol boats for North and South Goa coastal police stations to catch the rogue trawlers. Our traditional fishermen are not getting subsidies in time to mend their fishing nets and boats.  Yet crores are available to build theme parks, cable cars, and highways, each project taking everything out from the Goa it once was, turning Goa from a natural biodiversity hotspot to a wasteland.

A worry-stricken Jug Suraya in his column rightly highlighted how “steamroller India is grinding Goa’s uniqueness into oblivion”. He further wrote, “That Goa is fast vanishing, obliterated by a sprawl of luxury hotels, resorts and monstrous apartment blocks of holiday homes for people from Delhi, and Mumbai, and Bengaluru, and elsewhere.”

Yes, these are indeed Goa’s oblivion. Gated communities, luxury resorts,  “apartments”  many of them second or third homes with no character and little heart, only used  as “pads” to party and sleep, during a hedonistic long weekend  of trance, endless partying. And how can we forget the presence of contraband substances leading to so many cases and arrests, including those of key people in the nightlife industry who were not touched all these years till a crack anti-narcotics task force from Hyderabad stepped in. All this has already ground “Goa’s uniqueness into oblivion”.

But the steamroller doesn’t seem to stop. It still wants more till Goa becomes a tree-less desert through which trains and trucks of coal and iron ore pass to other States and countries. The Goa model has turned into a model of concrete; it is another Andheri East or Bandra or somewhere in Bengaluru or Delhi. But this bubble too will burst. This balloon will be pricked. Because someday, those who are coming to Goa to buy homes and party, will see no difference between Assagao and Andheri, between Saket and Sinquerim, and between Siolim and Secundrabad.

And in this desert of Goa, there will be no traditional artists, no poders, no ghumot players, no Mando singers,  no keeping homes open and going for holidays,  no village life and tinto gossip. Everything, yes everything, will be artificial, commercial and most tragically transactional.

Goa’s social environment, culture, heritage, and traditions are destroyed too

The loss of Goa’s environment is also a loss of Goa’s human environment. Culture, traditions, heritage, and a unique way of life are a part of Goa’s social environment which is getting and, in many places, has already been destroyed.

When we won the battle for Konkani as our official language on this very day, February 4, 1987 and  Statehood, our twin aspirations were fulfilled. But neither have we managed to protect our language or kept the uniqueness of Goa intact, as our Statehood status envisaged.

What is the use of spending hundreds of crores and aiming for “quality” tourists when this path  is only going to make it into a desert or at best a barren land for trucks and trains to pass to carry  material for other States using Goa just as a land of passage?

Is this why we fought for official language and Statehood?