AS of now, the two marina projects in Goa, one proposed at Sancoale and another at Nauxi, are put on hold. Neither the industrial promotion agencies of the government, such as the Goa Investment Promotion Board, nor the regulatory agencies such as the Goa State Pollution Board and Biodiversity Board are going to make any move on the proposals until a study of the carrying capacity of the rivers of the state are completed. Only if the study permits room for marinas the government is going to consider granting approval for any. The marine environment of Goa includes both sea and rivers, with waters salty or fresh and varies during the day and seasons in terms of rainfall, tides and drainage. The water bodies provide habitats to a large number of organisms, both living creatures and plants. Some of the organisms can live in fresh water, others in saline water, while there may be still others that can live in both fresh water and saline water. Establishment of marinas is doubtlessly going to cause disturbances of various kinds, and its impact can spill over to waters around and inland. Hence, a study of the current state of the rivers and the limits to which they can absorb adverse impacts is absolutely necessary before approval is granted to any marina proposal.
There is a new twist to the issue – ‘To allow or not to allow marinas’ – with the Biodiversity Board going ahead with its procedural steps to identify and declare the Sancoale bay as a biodiversity zone. The board has been making its studies and inspections, and the procedural steps seem to have quickened with the pressure mounting on the Minister for Environment and Forests Alina Saldanha with the approval granted to the marina proposals by the Investment Promotion Board. Even though Alina is a minister she made her opposition to the proposal for marina at Sancoale public. Last week, the various concerned agencies carried out another inspection at Sancoale. Declaring Sancoale as a biodiversity site may take some more time as it would need approval of all the concerned agencies. The final decision would need approvals at the highest level, including the Chief Minister, for declaring Sancoale as a biodiversity site would mean closing it for any investment.
As far as the promoters behind the marina proposals and the trade and industry associations of Goa are concerned, they are looking to the Chief Minister to back the marina proposals. After all, it was he who as the chairman of the Investment Promotion Board approved the proposals for two marinas. Under pressure from his minister Alina Saldanha and MLA Vishnu Wagh, around whom the local protests in Sancoale and Nauxi gravitated, the Chief Minister announced a “review” of the marina proposals. Much will depend on what course the Chief Minister takes, but one thing that is certain is that with the local people strongly opposing the two projects the chances of the marinas coming up at the two sites do not seem bright.
A marina, per se, is not all demoniac as the opposition to the two marina projects might make it seem to be. Marinas have been built in many parts of the world. And while some, particularly the earlier ones, might have caused serious environmental problems, many of them affect the marine environment within permissible limits. One of the primary considerations in maintaining a balance between development and sustainability of environment is whether the marina project is going to cause irreversible damages to the environment. If it is, the project should be out. If it is not, it should be allowed – subjection to close monitoring and conditions that the project could face closure should it undertake operations or expansions that could cause such damages.
It would be in the interest of promoting sustainable development that potential investors, trade and industry associations and the government should start looking for other possible sites also for marinas in the state. These sites could be areas where a marina would promote environmentally sound and sustainable development. Wherever a site is identified for a marina, a comprehensive evaluation of the marine, biophysical, social and other effects of the project must be done. The marina must use the coastal and water resources appropriately and efficiently. If the project is going to cause adverse social and environmental effects, then sound and appropriate mitigation systems must be incorporated and enforced in accordance with established standards. In short, a marina project cannot just be sold to the local people on the promise of jobs. It should also protect their health, safety and livelihoods, together with the marine, coastal and land environment.