Goa Needs A Maritime Board, Not Marinas

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What strikes anyone observing various types of agitations in Goa is the very selective, pick and choose approach and the perfect timing. But the people are not interested in constitutional powers

Nandkumar M Kamat

Once again the issue of the controversial Marina project in what is wrongly classified in Coastal Regulation Zone  (CRZ) as ‘Zuari river” is heating up. Nobody in MPT or GSPCB or GCZMA has seen the fundamental contradiction of considering a “Marina” inside a “river” because CRZ since the 1991 notification has dismissed the very idea of a ‘bay’ to save real estate worth Rs one lakh crores on the northern banks of Marmagoa and Southern banks of Tiswadi taluka.

Even the best of the oceanographers and marine scientists from NIO who got plum posts on various powerful committees preferred to remain suspiciously silent since 1996 when it came to treating what as professionals they always knew as ‘Dona Paula- Siridao- Chikhalim bay” as a ‘bay”, a distinct  extended arm of the Arabian Sea with tidal influence, marine beaches and marine influence. Late Sant Andre MLA poet Vishnu Wagh had even read a poem- “Dorya Gazota”  by Konkani poet late R V Pandit in legislative assembly to provide the proof that the tidal bay of Siridao was wrongly classified as a ‘river’. But including ex CM Parrikar nobody in the house took him seriously. Poet Pandit had his ancestral residence at Palem, within walking distance from Siridao beach and he could visit and experience the roaring bay during the monsoon.

By buying the silence of the NGOs and environmentalists involved in influencing the first CRZ notification of Goa the then government with just one masterstroke overnight converted the “Siridao bay’ into a “river’ with lesser restrictions on land development within CRZ. People who are now agitating against the Marina project never opened their mouths on this wrong classification and silently watched the unprecedented transformation of their landscape, the destruction of their beaches and green hillocks from Dona Paula to Agacaim and Cortalim to Chikhalim as large housing projects came up.

Obviously having seen people’s acceptance of this development along the Zuari waterfront the Marina project was pushed because the first patrons of the proposed Marina could be the residents in these expensive gated townships. Nobody has heard of a Marina which supports all sorts of expensive yachts and the supporting modern infrastructure built inside a waterbody classified under CRZ as a ‘river’.

What is more important than demand to scrap the Marina? Its not only correct classification of the above ‘bay’ as the “bay” under modified CRZ regulation but also advocating the long pending formation Goa State Maritime Board (GSMB) and the Goa Fisheries Development Corporation (GFDC).  What strikes anyone observing various types of agitations in Goa is the very selective, pick and choose approach and the perfect timing. But the same people are not interested to demand their constitutional powers to plan their future as they ritualistically vote in every election. There are no agitations or mass movements forcing the government to devolve the legitimate, constitutionally mandated long pending powers to panchayat raj institutions ( PRIs) under the 73 rd constitutional amendment and urban local bodies (ULB) under the 74 th constitutional amendment.

People from 191 village panchayats and 13 municipal councils have not agitated to get their mandatory ‘Village Development Plans’ ready. An audit of willingness and preparedness of these elected bodies to prepare these mandatory plans would reveal shocking disinterest. Similarly, the procrastination of governments since 1987 to establish the partly centrally assisted ‘Goa State Maritime Board” is equally shocking. After a lot of persuasion, the ex CM Shri Digambar Kamat had included it in his 2011-12 budget but subsequently despite reminding two Ministers of Captain Of Ports- Laxmikant Parsekar and Michael Lobo, they did not act thus depriving thousands of stakeholders from fisheries and river navigation, maritime transport and trade sector from the benefits which other six state maritime boards are extending in their respective states. Goa is still the only coastal state in India which refuses to form – ‘State Maritime Board’.

Goa government is trying to settle for some other entity which is nowhere equal to either Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamilnadu or West Bengal Maritime Boards. It is obvious that powerful private players who intend to push projects like ‘Marina at Nauxe” have allegedly lobbied and influenced the decision of the government since 1987 so that they have a free run with their own ideas. State Maritime Board would have come in their ways to pick and choose any location they desire. How people can maintain silence over such fundamental policy failures?  Have they forgotten Goa’s rich heritage of maritime trade and commerce and the historic and proven  importance of river navigation?

How the fisheries and inland navigation sector is satisfied with non-development of Goa’s minor ports like Keri-Terekhol, Morajim, Chapora, Dhargal, Verem, Nerul, Ribander, Cumbarjua, Rachol, Durbhat, Assolna, Betul, Talpona among others?  Fisheries department is distributing a subsidy of Rs. 30 per kilogram of fish caught in Goa but these benefits are never passed to the consumers. The interstate fish import cartels have sabotaged the formation of the Goa Fisheries Development Corporation (GFDC), and interestingly none from traditional or mechanized fisheries sector of Goa seem to support GFDC if it benefits the common fish consumers because then they wouldn’t be able to dictate the market prices as per their will. These are some of the most neglected fundamental issues of policy and administrative reforms which agitators would not be interested in pursuing.

If the demand for ‘No to Marina” includes ‘ Yes to Goa State Maritime Board’ and “Yes To Goa State Fisheries Development Corporation” then we would see a new political ethic in Goa interested in finding real, long term sustainable pro-people solutions. I stay very close to the bay where the proposed Marina project is planned but every morning, I have to buy fish from a door to door salesperson on bike who drives 12 kms from the Malim fishing jetty. I have not found the answer why the fresh fish catch in the bay just behind my house is not sold to hundreds of daily fish consumers like me on Donapaula -Bambolim plateau.

We provide a readymade, hostage door to door market and are willing to offer the price better than what these fisher people get in the nearby markets. But there is some kind of local superstition which taboos sale of fish to the local consumers including those in the fishing villages. With this type of strange and superstitious market economics what one would say about the very merit of agitations launched in the name of people, resources and environment?