10 Dec 2023  |   04:03am IST


A recent report from the ‘National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management’ (NCSCM) unveiled concerning findings about sand erosion in Goa. Out of 41 surveyed beaches, 22 have witnessed significant erosion, totalling 1,22,176.44 square meters. This revelation, presented in the Lok Sabha, highlights the urgency of addressing coastal challenges and underscoring the multifaceted nature that is shaping Goa’s beaches. Environmentalists are particularly concerned about the destruction of sand dunes and warn of the consequences the State’s coastline will face if corrective measures are not taken immediately KARSTEN MIRANDA reports


uring December, Goan families residing abroad return to their homeland. The older generation among them like to share the uniqueness of Goa with their children by visiting various plac­es that showcase what they love about the State their ancestors grew up in.

However, they face the unfortu­nate reality that the once-existent sand dunes on the beaches have nearly disappeared. In their youth, they would joyfully ascend the slopes of these sand dunes, engag­ing in playful games.

Regrettably, these cherished memories are now mere echoes, leaving their children without the opportunity to witness the sand dunes in their former glory.

Interestingly, in December, at­tention was drawn to the plight of Goa’s beaches, which are grap­pling with sand erosion—a grow­ing concern voiced by coastal communities reliant on tourism or traditional occupations. A re­port from the ‘National Center for Sustainable Coastal Management’ (NCSCM) in Chennai revealed that 22 out of 41 beaches surveyed in Goa, have experienced significant sand erosion, totalling 1,22,176.44 square meters.

The study was tabled by the Union Minister of State (MoS) for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey in a written reply in the Lok Sabha earlier this month.

Coincidentally, the study delved into accretion, the process of coastal sediment reemerging after submersion, across certain beach stretches.

For perspective, the remaining 19 of the 41 beaches experienced both erosion and accretion simul­taneously. Nonetheless, 13 beaches faced erosion exclusively, account­ing for a total of 1,09,483.66 sq m.

From this, Colva leads with the highest amount of sand ero­sion 22,563.7 (sq m), followed by Mandrem (15,829.25 sq m); Ashvem 12,734.77 (sq m), Querim (10,403.88 sq m), Can­saulim (8,377.57 sq m), Sinquer­im 8,339.79 (sq m), Betalba­tim 8,310.65 sq m), Sernabatim 7,670.26 sq m), Velsao (5,670.13 sq m), Talpona (5,659.62 sq m), Canaguinim (2,360.52 sq m), Pat­nem 1,265.84 sq m) and Utorda (297.62 sq m).

In his reply in parliament, MoS Choubey highlighted that all af­fected states in India have been directed to finalize their 2019 Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) in accordance with the CRZ notification 2019. This in­cludes mapping erosion-prone areas and developing Shoreline Management Plans for identified stretches experiencing erosion. The ministry has provided techni­cal support for designing coastal protection measures and prepar­ing Shoreline Management Plans in vulnerable areas.

Furthermore, the Union envi­ronment ministry has established a hazard line for the entire Indi­an coast, indicative of shoreline changes, including those related to sea-level rise due to climate change. This line serves as a tool for Disaster Management, aiding in the planning of adaptive and mit­igation measures by coastal state agencies.

Additionally, a study by the Na­tional Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) has monitored shore­line changes for the entire Indian coastline from 1990 to 2018. The findings reveal that 33.6% of the Indian coastline is vulnerable to erosion, 26.9% is experiencing accretion, and 39.6% remains sta­ble. The study underscores that shoreline changes result from both natural and human activities, with the receding coastline posing a threat to land, habitat, and the livelihoods of fishermen, impact­ing boat parking, net mending, and fishing 


Goa govt’s response

The State government has tied up with a Netherlands-based com­pany called Deltares, to carry out a study to evaluate the causes of ero­sion on Goa’s beaches in relation to local wave-driven currents, storm/ cyclone erosion, and discharge at river mouths.

Furthermore, under the aegis of the State’s Environment depart­ment, the Goa Coastal and Envi­ronment Management Society, will implement the ambitious project to rejuvenate the beach stretch­es from Majorda to Betalbatim in South Goa.

This pilot project involves the implementation of the innovative Sand Motor experiment, originally developed by Deltares.

The approach involves depos­iting an immense volume of sand extracted offshore along the coast­line in a single operation, resulting in the creation of a strategically shaped peninsula. Over time, nat­ural processes redistribute the sand, forming a buffer against sea level rise, storm surges and coastal flooding.

For the pan-Goa study to be carried out by Deltares, the Envi­ronment Department received a detailed proposal from the Dutch company, which will support lo­cal agencies in their studies on the local coastal morphology and their knowledge-basis for deci­sion-making on mitigation mea­sures.

Deltares will support the mod­elling of the morphological system via collaborative efforts with the aim of obtaining a quantification of the sediment transport rates.

As per the proposal, a three-day visit has been planned to the area with two Deltares employees.

“We will assess the local situa­tion from literature and in-house data. The aim is to provide a con­ceptual overview of the functioning of the local morphological system, create a joint understanding of the causes of erosion, confirm the ap­proach and perform first capacity building on the relevant coastal processes. We can check the site characteristics and meet local au­thorities and stakeholders. We will summarise the discussed approach and further detail this in a concise report,” read the proposal.

“We will guide them with the setup of a wave model and support their coastal morphological analy­sis. We will provide capacity build­ing on coastline modelling and follow this up, through email and video, for the assessment/model­ling of the case study by the local agency. Depending on the capaci­ties of the local agency, we will take up some of the technical tasks,” the proposal added.

“This work will be carried out in collaboration with National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and NCCR,” former Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral had stated recently during a Goa Legislative Assembly session.

Cabral had then also stated that the Water Resources Department (WRD) has entrusted the study of Goa coast for its behaviour, ero­sion pediment transportation to National Institute of Ocean Tech­nology (NIOT) in the year 2021 underworld bank funded National Hydrology Project.

“WRD has carried out An­ti-beach erosion measures have been majorly initiated at Keri-Pernem by using tetrapods, Coco-beach at Nerul, Bardez by Concrete Blocks and Khanaginim beach with stones to mitigate the coast erosion caused by vagaries of the sea waves,” Cabral had stated.

Greens see Red!

Once considered pristine, Goa’s coastal zone has undergone sig­nificant geological and ecological transformations, with environ­mentalists attributing these chang­es to human interference and the authorities’ lackadaisical attitude. The destruction of age-old sand dune ecosystems, once Nature’s defence against ocean forces like cyclones and tsunamis, has raised concerns.

Environmental experts empha­size the vital role of sand dunes as “sand banks” maintaining the dynamic equilibrium of the beach. They point to the urgency for the government to prioritise the con­servation and restoration of these dunes, crucial for protecting the expansive 105 sq km coastal area. Referring to studies by NIO and NCSCM, experts connect the dete­rioration of sand dunes to develop­ment and tourism activities along the coastal belts.

“Time and again, we have reiter­ated that the coast of Goa is under assault. Tourism and related hu­man activities are a major cause. Several coastal areas have changed from virtual wilderness in 1970’s to haphazardly developed stretch­es, full of concrete buildings and related structures, in the last 30 years. The Baga - Candolim coast is a classic example of frenzied de­velopment,” said Dr Antonio Mas­carenhas, scientist who was ear­lier with the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Dona Paula and the Goa Coastal Zone Manage­ment Authority (GCZMA).

It is to be noted that the Coast­al Regulation Zone, 2011 declared sand dunes as CRZ I (a) areas, which are ecologically sensitive and has ensured a restriction of development activities along the dune areas.

Mascarenhas explained that the dune environment is classified as fragile, sensitive and vulnerable due to its propensity for changes under even slight environmental stress. “Despite that, its onslaught continues with authorities being least bothered,” he said.

Agnelo Barreto, member of the citizens’ group, Calangute Con­stituency Forum (CCF), said that several roads laid perpendicular to the coast and across dune belts in Calangute have severely altered, razed, levelled and eliminated a large number of dunes He also said that for construction of various tourism facilities like toilets and parking lots, sand dunes are de­stroyed.

Referring to cases that have oc­curred in Candolim and Calangute, he asscerted that the GCZMA, which grants permissions for tem­porary structures, has to be more proactive in checking whether the applicant sets up temporary or permanent concrete structures. He said that there are far better ways to promote tourism while also pro­tecting and conserving ecology.

It may be recalled that last year, Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had tabled its report titled ‘Conservation of Coastal Ecosys­tem’ in Parliament, which come down heavily on GCZMA and point­ed out that despite the existence of sand dunes, it gave permissions for infrastructure development and construction of hotels and residential houses along the beach stretches vulnerable to sand dunes leading to its destruction.

Citing an example, CAG ob­served that the construction of four-lane National Highway 17 B from Varunapuri to Sada Junction near Baina Beach was recommend­ed by the authority in 2015 despite observations of the site inspection team that Baina Beach contained sand dunes covered with vegeta­tion and that it was prone to an­nual cycles of erosion which made it ecologically sensitive and con­struction will disturb the ecologi­cal stability of sensitive beach.

On another concerning note, en­vironmentalists have also alleged that the CZMP that was approved by the State of Goa and sent to the Centre has an extensive amount of sand dunes missing from it despite the same having been verified in the ground truthing exercise that was conducted.

Judith Almeida of the Colva Civ­ic and Consumer Forum (CCCF) for instance pointed out that this flip flop on the existence or nonexistence of sand dunes had paved the way for GCZMA to grant permissions.

She feared that in the future, it will be up to green activists to challenge the CZMP as otherwise, there could be similar cases where sand dunes across beaches in Goa will be shown as non-existent and approvals will be then granted for projects on these beaches.

Almeida also lamented that GCZMA is not attending to com­plaints on time leading to a piling up of pending cases.

Environmentalists want the GCZMA to follow its policy as well as directions from the National Green Tribunals regarding Beach Carrying Capacities across the coast wherein permissions cannot be given if the beach areas have ex­ceeded its respective BCCs.

Presently, there are a series of complaints about sand dune de­struction in the Salcete coastal belt, pertaining to the beaches of Sernabatim, Benaulim and Varca, for which inspections have been carried out and efforts are under­way to see that these sand dunes are restored and action is taken against those who have destroyed the same.


Iddhar Udhar