Save the goose with the golden eggs

April 11, 2022 | 05:28 IST

Save the golden hen

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho

The SC accepting CEC recommendations that fresh forest cover cannot be disturbed by the Tanmar power transmission line, may have brought a sigh of relief to civil society struggling to save what is left of Goa . Civil society may now have another issue on the table. Tourism is the new cash cow. Its receipts are today the main sources of revenue for the State. Goa has emerged as the biggest destination for beach tourism in the country as tourist arrivals hit a record high of eight million in the pre-Covid year. These millions have fallen into the trap of a multicultural community with a great historical past, a dynamic environment and sunny beaches. Now the government tells us that the state will be the number one tourist destination in the country. The direction taken by the government can be noted in the Governor’s speech to the new State Assembly. He talked about promoting health tourism, backcountry tourism, adventure tourism, ecotourism, heritage tourism, spiritual tourism. The new minister of tourism speaks of creating an infrastructure to attract “quality tourists”. A new issue is the discourse on “tourism-related verticals”.

The development of infrastructure – road network and bridges is accelerated. PDAs facilitate increased floor area ratio and plot coverage with skyscrapers, increased commercial space and residential areas, as vacation homes are perhaps the new “linked verticals to tourism”, of which they speak. It is the over-reliance that makes this tourism sector haphazard and unplanned.

Over the past decade, the number of hotels has doubled, with star hotels being the fastest growing. Housing settlements in the Beachbelt are growing at a rapid rate in the Beachbelt, resulting in excessive urbanization of the countryside. Local land, water and environmental resources are under severe stress, the main one being the destruction of the coastal environment. A total failure of waste management only adds to the woes of the inhabitants.

The billion dollar industry is notorious for polluting river and sea waters, leading to the loss of historic sites and farmland, beaches coming under corporate control, with land becoming the greatest tradable good. Beach tourism, it seems, has captured the imagination of both domestic and international tourists. Even Italy could not save its waters, beaches and coastline. Coasts around the world are facing disaster. Developed countries like France, Spain and Greece face battles between the tourism industry and civil society. Turkey is grappling with the problem of tourism tinkering with egg-laying turtles. As ski resorts become more profitable in Alpine countries, farming communities are on a war footing as governments facilitate ski resorts. The destruction of society and the environment has caused Western countries like Italy, France, Spain and Germany to impose huge taxes on tourists. Bali also now restricts entry through taxation. In Goa, to deal with the uncontrollable housing boom, there was a proposal for a non-occupancy tax which did not find favor with the authorities.

There is no doubt that the tourism industry provides jobs and economic opportunities for people and locals, the leisure and recreation industry has always had a negative impact on local communities and the environment, but it is the economic factor that has the last word, but the industry cannot have the last laugh at the expense of the community.

Despite all the negative impacts of coastal tourism, a significant portion (the government estimates it at 20%) depends on tourism-related activities for their livelihood. Can this industry be made more sustainable without degrading the natural cover and safeguarding the socio-cultural identity of the Abode of God?

The World Tourism Organization has defined tourist carrying capacity as “the maximum number of people who can visit a tourist destination at the same time without causing the destruction of the physical, economic, socio-cultural environment and an unacceptable reduction in the quality visitor satisfaction. . The reception area must not deteriorate or the inhabitants must not feel too much heat from visitors. Is there a measure to find the means? Those who talk about tourism verticals need to set ultimate limits of attendance for councils that can be continuously assessed and monitored rather than allowing the industry to follow the trajectory the mining industry took at the start of this century. . How much 3702 km2, 105 km of coastline and 74 km of beach belt can accommodate is what the new Minister of Tourism must address. A set of guidelines on ecologically sensitive areas, protection of trees, protection of natural cover and forest areas must be taken into account when deciding on the carrying capacity of the sector.

The new Minister of Tourism talks about quality tourists. It seems that the quality is determined by their ability to buy. High-spending tourists may demand more luxury hotels, more vacation homes, more casinos, golf courses, and less of the current unaccounted-for unorganized sector. This could further put the earth’s natural resource under pressure. The extent to which the earth’s resource can be exploited cannot be unlimited. There is already talk of exchanging even forest peaks in order to create a land reserve!

The overexploitation of the mining sector was due to the inability of governments to control mining companies and decide on mining capacities. Their failure shattered the backbone of the economy ten years ago. The mining hinterland has yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The action of the SC was only a reaction. Today, the limits of mining are set by the carrying capacity of the sector.

Tourism cannot be allowed to use the mining route. The coastline and the countryside must be passed on to the next generation. Protect the goose with the golden eggs!

(The author is a practicing lawyer, law professor and political thinker)