I moved to Goa to run away from the city but realised karma follows you.
India’s smallest state, Goa, is one of the few very diverse lands. It has something for everyone - whether you like to party till the wee hours or you’re looking for a quiet isolated retreat. The warm and welcoming vibe attracts a diverse set of people from all over the world. The biggest asset of the state however, is its phenomenal green cover with palm trees and paddy fields on almost every block and village. My reason for moving to the state was singular - to run away from the din of the city. I love the fact that when I want I can live the urban life meeting and greeting people, but I can also switch off to a quiet reserve. This indeed becomes a big selling point when you are an independent writer.
Catching the sunrise at Dona Paula Jetty
The first time I visited Goa I was 11. My memory was of the Dona Paula Jetty. The endless sea coloured in myriad shades of green and blue, the horizon almost in line with my vision, the waves crashing on the dark rocks and the incessant cool breeze. 15 years later I went to revisit it, and found it almost unrecognisable. Litter everywhere, crowds of people, it’s a virtual mess. On the lookout for a more peaceful spot, I ended up at Miramar Beach.
The many shades of water at Miramar
Miramar is near the capital of the state, Panaji, and is surprisingly one of the quietest and cleanest beaches despite the proximity to a denser population. It attracts people in broadly three categories - tourists, locals walking and exercising, and fishermen with their boats. There are no shacks on it but outside it, which is probably one of the reasons for it being unspoilt.
An illustration of the current state of affairs
In late July, however, beach bums like me were in for a surprise. Near the end of the beach that lies closer to river Mandovi, there came floating a pale green and white vessel named MV Lucky Seven. The river is home to Goa’s well known and frequented offshore casinos which the Chief Minister has been working towards removing since 2012, in order to give the overcrowded river a much needed breather. Seeing the Lucky Seven from a distance initially was an exciting prospect, inviting Goans from everywhere to come and view the site and take selfies. The vessel is owned by Golden Globe Hotels, a subsidiary company of former Haryana minister, Gopal Goyal Kanda, who was arrested in a case of abetment of suicide back in 2014. The company had the license for a casino, but laxity in paying taxes ended the lease.
Early this year, despite talks of doing away with offshore casinos, GGHPL received a license to operate Goa’s 6th offshore casino, which would have been the Lucky Seven. The 35-year-old vessel was towed to Mormugao shipyard and without authorization brought to the Mandovi river, without complying with the mandatory fitness certificate.
No longer a paradise place
The reason that it ended up on the beach was because it hit a sandbar while being towed and is now damaged. Monsoon is known to cause the sand on the beach to erode, but the impatient decision to set the ship going despite choppy seas has further pushed the beach back by two meters. Sand on the shoreline has been excavated to keep it afloat since, making the beach even smaller. While the vessel continues sinking on one end under its own weight. The water and sand inside its engine room isn’t helping either.
In July I remember reading that the CM, known for his political will, condemned this situation and directed Kanda to remove the vessel within two weeks. Monsoon, low tides and now an elusive Gopal Kanda, (who had initially ridiculed scientists’ claims that no environmental damage would be caused by this) has delayed the process further.
The state of the beach
Each time I pass the beach, I find myself more sad than angry. Till recently, looking at litter thrown here and there or even hearing about any act that damages the immediate environment, I would be angry in a self righteous way. Yet feel helpless that climate change is an event out of human control. This incident and a recent art installation called Carpet of Joy by Dr Subodh Kerkar changed the way I look. Kerkar’s installation had a total of 1,50,000 plastic bottles thrown around on the streets in a village called Saligao in Goa. The installation, the flooding in Guwahati, Macau, Mumbai, Houston and this impending disaster of the stranded vessel have brought one fact to light - climate change is a reality (yes Trump it is). And the decision to salvage what is left of the environment or even make amends to avert the damage done lies solely in our hands. We can decide the extent to which a disaster - natural or manmade - destroys things.
I may have run away from big city issues. But I realise issues are everywhere. They’re just different. So here I am, trying to resolve this one. I’m not going anywhere this time.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Shivranjana Rathore
Photographs by Shivranjana Rathore