TRADITIONAL fishermen from six villages – Odxel, Cacra, Nauxim, Bambolim, Siridao and Curca – of North Goa district are opposing the proposed marina project on the northern bank of the River Zuari near Nauxim on the ground that it would cause loss of their livelihood. They have accused the state government of adamantly pushing forward the project despite their opposition. The latest sign of the government push has come in the form of the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) initiating the process for a public hearing for the project. “If we accept the project we would be signing our own death warrant,” say the fishermen. The state government should take the fishing community into confidence if the project has to become a reality. A marina requires a large area to be set up. The land around would be valuable for development, which would trigger its own dynamics of land market and constructions. There would be need for hotels and restaurants and other services as well, which too will require a lot of land. The demand for land would be insatiable, which would mean that displacement on a large scale of the original residents.
Loss of traditional livelihood is the main threat the fishermen of the six villages say they face. The secondary threat is that local youth would not benefit by way of employment from the marina project. With not many employment opportunities in the state and past experience being a testimony when a number of private projects did promise but did not hire local people, the fear of the fishermen of the six villages is not unfounded. They cite the instance of a big hotel that promised locals employment but has not done justice to them in this regard. The state government has to work out a way by which the traditional livelihood of the fishermen of the six villages is not affected. Or at least the number of those affected is kept at a minimum level, and they should be compensated adequately. The government has to make it certain that local youth get jobs in the marina project. If they need training the promoters of the project must be bound to provide them training for making them eligible for recruitment. The authorities need to listen to the demands and aspirations of the fishermen and convince them that they would take measures to protect their interests.
As for the ecological costs, marinas have been known to cause negative impact on environment and marine life. Studies have shown that implementation of best practices for marina planning was far from adequate. Poor performance of existing projects fuel negative perception among the public and environmentalist. Only a thorough regimen could help in enforcement of the rules and ensuring least damage to the environment and ecology. The people living in and around Nauxim have for long been complaining about illegal fishing and water sports activities. Had the government acted firmly to stop these illegal activities, the locals would have been more inclined to trust them with regard to the marina project. The locals might have accepted the marina project with the hope that the government would protect their interests. As marina projects across the world have failed to achieve desirable environmental goals due to lack of compliance, the state government needs to study the Nauxim marina project and make sure it would not fail to achieve environmental goals. Failure of project would give credence to the prophets of doom, who are plenty in the state. But the question is: does the government have the expertise to mould the marina project and see through the implementation and operation parts closely enough to make sure the damage to environment was manageable?
Goa is a tourist state; setting up of a marina would help attract different kind of tourists, adding a new feature to the state’s tourism portfolio. However, the state must ensure that best practices, which rely on strong regulations and enforcement of them, are followed by marina promoters. A no-nonsense approach could be a game changer as adherence to environment safety and clean practices by the proponents of the marina would help drive confidence among general public about environmental safety and employment generation. Studies have proved that marinas in Australia have been making valuable contribution to the local communities economically, employment generation, social, recreational and environmental. If Goa can make the marina deliver positive results local people can come on board.