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  • Writer's pictureTerra Conscious

Goa's Identity Crisis

Goa is currently undergoing an identity crisis. The State has been earmarked for a range of activities, such as mining, a large coal port, river nationalisation and even highway and road construction.

Module 1:

In addition to all of this, there is also a rapid influx of people from other states, as everybody wants to visit Goa for its beaches, parties and nightlife. Policymakers and politicians are pushing for each and every one of these activities, with no sense of prioritisation about which activities should be given more importance. How are people expected to find space for all these activities in a 100 km stretch of coastline? More importantly, in a space as small as Goa, an approach like this is guaranteed to create friction between the communities invested in each of these activities. So how is Goa expected to sustain any of these activities while they are at loggerheads with each other?

As a policymaker, one of the fundamentals of planning would be to ensure that the activities as part of one industry do not hinder those in another. Goa’s politicians seem to have forgotten this critical point, as tourism activities are hindered by circumstances that are caused by river nationalisation, dredging and the expansion of ports. For instance, all the scuba diving activities are conducted at Grande Island, which is a mere 7-8 kms away from the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) Harbour, which has been earmarked for expansion for an international-scale coal port. It isn’t hard to realise that port expansion activities on the mainland will have an impact on the coral reefs around Grande Island, and the scuba diving activities there. None of these activities seem to acknowledge the presence of the others, let alone accommodating or adjusting for them. No policy document is better reflective of this than the Tourism Master Plan, which is being developed by KPMG on behalf of the Government of Goa.

The Tourism Master Plan is a document that is expected to put together a cohesive vision for the future of the tourism industry in Goa. The plan encompasses all aspects of tourism in Goa — ranging from historical and cultural tourism (forts, homestays) to party-based tourism (nightlife, beach parties and casino-based tourism). The primary objective of our critique of the Tourism Master Plan was to introduce it to the public sphere to generate interest and awareness within Terra Conscious’ online audience. The first three modules of the Plan are up on the website of Goa’s Department of Tourism for public feedback, but it seems that very few people are aware of this fact.

Right from the onset, it was clear that there were problems in the content of this Plan itself, and even more problems when one considered the fragile ecosystems and environments in Goa. There were sensitive ecological zones, such as the Chapora rivermouth, that were being designated as suitable regions for high-end tourism such as waterfronts, promenades, jetties, cruises or for nightlife activities such as beach parties and clubbing. At the time, it was clear that the parties responsible for developing the plan had not engaged directly with the regions that they were setting aside for various activities. They had adopted a zoning methodology to accommodate the various types of tourism. As part of this method, some regions were set aside for nightlife and party-based tourism, while others were classified as ‘eco-beaches’, or areas where marine and terrestrial flora and fauna were to be preserved and protected. To provide an example f how this zoning was conducted, the beaches of Mandrem, Morjim and Ashvem were designated as ‘eco-beaches’. Right across the Chapora river from these beaches, the region of Chapora, Vagator and Anjuna were placed within a ‘nightlife/party’ zone of Goa.

If this plan were to come into force this would mean that these ‘eco-beaches’ and ‘nightlife’ zones would be a mere 500m to a kilometre away from each other. This is a nightmare for conservationists, because it would not only be impossible to enforce this zoning while working with the fauna in the region, but the proximity of these zones makes the very existence of these zones redundant. The plan reeks of top-down decision-making, where actors on the ground are expected to mould and shape their activities based on what they are told to do by a few officials whose livelihoods are not directly dependent on the very spaces that they’re creating legislations for. There’s little evidence to show that the local communities have engaged with these planning processes.

While KPMG and the Government of Goa have been rightly credited with putting together a document as large (in scope and size) as the Tourism Master Plan, questions must be asked regarding the very nature of the document produced. Why are KPMG and the government pushing for an expansion of tourism activities, while simultaneously pushing for an expansion of the coal port, an increase in mineral extractions and even tourism activities such as yacht and cruise tourism? Why are we so keen on pushing this discourse of development to the point that the Goan ecosystems are allowed to die out without so much as a whimper The problem here is not with the content of these plans, as much as with the planning processes.

Relevant communities and populations have been excluded from these

discussions, and this is evident in the fact that the Plan does not acknowledge the ground realities of the state. Without the presence of people who are directly dependent on these environments, the Tourism Master Plan has developed in a bubble, independent of the fact that there are other industries (almost all of which are earmarked for expansion) also dependent on the same spaces. Any tourism operator on the ground would be able to inform us about the challenges that they face on a daily basis as a result of other industries. If KPMG and the government of Goa involved these people in their discussions, the Tourism Master Plan would probably look extremely different. In the next post, we will be addressing the inaccessibility of the Tourism Master Plan, and how the planning processes that went into the Plan could have been made more participatory and inclusive. Note: We'd strongly recommend reading through the Tourism Master Plan for yourself. Do write in to let us know what you think about it!

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