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Oil’s Not Well On Goa’s Coastline

The recent oil spill at the beaches of Goa


A serpentine monster of grey lines the coast of Goa, treat from South to North. The shoreline heaves with the weight of oil, adiposity the waves muted. In the distance, ships and barges loom, discreet, ominous. On the other side of the slick, bemused tourists are wondering what happened to their holiday in paradise.

“I can’t go to the beach,” mewls Brendan off Baga beach, age 7, American, succinctly describing the current dilemma among those who flew a few miles and then some to frolic on Goa’s coastline.

“We should have stayed home,” mutters a tourist from Bangalore, standing aimlessly a good 50 metres from the shore at Vagator.

While it’s not uncommon for oil to appear in coastal waters at this time of year, this year’s beach slick is far wider and more intense than usual. Interviews with lifeguards, officials and environmentalists place the blame on ships discharging oil into the water – severely damaging the underwater and coastal environment, not to mention the kilometers-long eyesore and the toll on the fishing and tourism industries in the sunny state.

Goa Streets broke the story by speaking of a massive stretch of beach affected in the North. Within minutes, readers started chiming in, saying the beaches of the South – including the so-called 5-star beaches in the Majorda area – are also badly affected.

Goa Streets called Dr. Claude Alvares, Goa’s swashbuckling environmentalist for his comment. “This has been happening for years,” he says. “Everyone knows anything goes in Goa, and no one will ever do anything about it. So you see these barges carrying iron ore, they have been discharging oil into Goan waters for years now.
“It could also be that ship docked off San Jacinto island a few weeks ago, it was carrying a huge amound of oil. Bottom line is, the oil spill is very easy to fingerprint.

“But,” Claude adds, in his vintage tongue-in-cheek style, “since there is no government in Goa at present, nothing is being done.”

“There is no vigilance to speak of. The coastguard in Goa is a joke.

“Been happening for decades, this time, someone has gotten bold and courageous and decided to discharge a whole load of oil in Goan waters.”

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A group of curious and concerned citizens


Claude figures the monsoon will help clear the coastline faster, with the oil being heaved back into the sea, where, he points out, “It will cause its own set of problems, affecting the fish and other marine life.”
Streets managed to speak with Alina Saldanha, Goa BJP Minister for Environment, who first discovered the spillage a week ago, before it even washed up to the shore. On a reconnaissance trip to Arrossim beach, Saldanha found tar balls floating in the sea. “The fishermen say it’s an annual occurrence,” she explains. “However this year, due to the change in weather – and currents— the tar balls have washed ashore.”

Saldanha admits this is crippling not only the livelihood of Goan fishermen who depend on the sea for their bread, but also that all-important Goan industry, tourism.

The irony that Shri Sripad Naik, Goa BJP MP, has just been appointed Union Minister for Tourism under PM Modi, cannot be lost on many. Can he untangle the tourism knot in Goa before doing it for the whole if India?

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Checking out the oil spill


“It is a huge problem,” agrees Saldanha. “It was difficult for me to walk on the shore, and this was before it turned as bad as it is now. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. The fishermen say there will be more tar coming in with the currents.

“Although it’s an annual incident, I think it is time, after this year’s disaster, to approach the authorities to plan remedial measures, as well as preventive measures for the future.”

When asked about the cause of the spills, Saldanha admits it is discharge from various ships traversing the waters of Goa.

Goa has had its share of excitement of the dark kind along the coastline. Years ago, a ship called the River Princess ambled over to the shoreline at Candolim, and stuck around for over a decade, causing an environmental overhaul – with sand dunes piled two feet high.

An eyesore initially, it gradually became a mildly amusing local attraction, despite the obvious injury to our state’s coastline.
It took a decade, several crores of public money and some nasty press for the Princess to be evicted. Bits of her are still entrenched in the sea, out of sight.

With an environmental, fiscal and tourism disaster awaiting him on his triumphant return to his home state this week, Union Minister Sripad Naik has his work cut out for him.

With the BJP now ruling the centre as well as the state, this would be a good opportunity to flex some political muscle for a good cause – the integrity of our coastline.


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. ann

    Returned to Goa this year after a 25 year absence, because the sea was always too dirty for me to call it any kind of paradise. The only thing that’s changed is that the deluge of plastic/tourism/sewage has made it even worse – now this!

  2. Steven Rathborne

    …I’m looking for other comments on this matter..there does’t seem to be any link…or doesn’t this scandal attract any comments?

  3. Sanou Olszewski

    Thank you for the doing something!

Comments are closed.