Mopa set to overwhelm Goa

By Cleofato A Coutinho
02 July 2015 11:29 IST

In January this year, I used the hospitality of this column to plead that the tourism industry deserves to be capped so that our tiny state does not go the same path as ‘Bali’ and ‘Hawaii’. The cap is required to deal with the concern of getting ‘overwhelmed’. Last financial year there was a dip in the foreign tourists’ inflow into the state and still the figures for 2014-2015 show that the centrally located Dabolim International airport handled 4.5 million passengers. We have done precious little in providing world class Infrastructure in terms of road network, water supply, electricity and garbage management which the high-spending tourists demand. Our inflow is particularly via the low-spending charter route.

Both low-spending foreign and domestic tourists claiming a slice of Goa thus state’s identity is getting blurred (but we blame the migrants!) Hundreds of hotels and thousands of rooms getting added, the state is bound to get overwhelmed and we are told that the existing airport cannot handle the kind of traffic that is envisaged. The proposed Greenfield Mopa Airport expected to be operational with its first phase by 2020 is supposed to handle 4.4 millions in 2020 and 13 millions in 2030.

Despite opposition, the proposed Mopa airport has provided impetus for four star and five star hotel projects. There is already a rush by big hotel chains looking to built or acquire properties in the state beach belt. A spokesperson of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa claims ‘…in spite of continuing limbo on the regional plan, 15-16 high end/boutique hotels came up in Goa last year. More hotels will make an entry once the regional plan comes into effect’.

With already 25 five star resorts in Goa certified by the union ministry and few others portraying themselves as five star resorts or five star bouquet resorts without government’s  certification, the proposed airport seem to invite more hoteliers to this tiny state.  The landscape, coast line and river banks are up for sale in the pursuit to get the tourism revenue.  In their hunt for tourism income, Spain, which built its economy around tourism got its entire coast line destroyed! We are not far behind.  The Coastal Zone Management is only on paper.

 

For over a decade and a half now, the issue over the proposed airport at Mopa has been opposed here in Goa. The anti Mopa movement has been pioneered by the south Goa’s political lobby due to the fears that the new airport at the northern border will bring in disaster for tourism in the southern part of Goa and decline of South Goa’s economy.

 The Anti Mopa Goa’s movement has become more of a South Goa v/s. North Goa or Salcete V/s the rest of Goa dimension and to a large extent the entire movement has got entangled with communal virus. The BJP with its strong position in North Goa has successfully exploited the division. Even the more affected Canacona Taluka and in the Mormugao taluka, where the present airport is located, look at the Mopa airport as a Salcete problem due to the peculiar political configuration in the state. In view of the regional angle or a communal element the South Goa’s political lobby has now placed the issue on the back burner and with the chief minister coming from the border area, there is a sudden push to the new airport. Even the most vocal opponent of Mopa in Salcete now finds the airport issue to be a divisive one in his scheme of unity of political forces. That is the misery of Dabolim.  

At one time the south Goa’s fears were sought to be allayed by an assurance that the Dabolim airport will not be closed even if the new airport is operational. Even if the Dabolim airport is closed, the issue as to whether we have the capacity to absorb 13 million tourists amongst our 1.5 million populace? If that is the trend, what special status are we talking about?

At one time the tourism boom was due to our palm fringed coast line which made Goa the most sought after sea side destination but now the driving force of the industry appears to be the casino industry and mega events like ‘sunburn’ and we are shifting towards becoming an entertainment capital. We are blessed with a coast line but cursed by the off shore casino industry. The casino industry books thousands of rooms in the starred category and despite the dip in the foreign visitors, there is a claim that there is shortage of starred accommodation in and around Panaji. 

The tourism industry and the government seem to be on the same page that the state must ensure that the rich and powerful are provided opportunities to spend the money in Goa on leisure and gambling, without which the state cannot sustain itself. The type of tourism also brought immense collateral damage through crime, prostitution, drugs and rising prices. That damage is set to accelerate with thousands of rooms in the starred category increasing.

In the latest Economic and Political victory Kenneth B Nielsen, a post doctorial research fellow at the University of Brogan, Norway suggests that the present government in its determination to make Mopa a success, could ride roughshod over concerns and environmental as well as political.

Google ‘Mopa plots’ and the real estate websites announce a large number of farm plots in an around Mopa-that is the story of Mopa. Whichever you look at it Mopa is set to overwhelm Goa.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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Previous Comments

Good post by Mr.Coutinho. Is there any way we can save Goa? Goa is Gone. Like minded people should come to gather ,its now or never.

- kaushal parsekar, guirim mapusa | 06 th August 2015 14:17

 

Rather than continue to develop more hotels and new airports with the tempt to lure more tourists in to Goa, better way forward would be to develop the police force and tourism sector to ensure safer Goa for tourists. It is a one thing to bring them in and an other to fail them completely with adequate safety. If the tourism sector does not improve the safety(and I am not just talking about condition of the roads) but all the crimes that tourist encounter and at times fatal crimes(like my nephew Felix Dahl killed in Patnem 28.01.2015). It would be advisable to start investing money in that area and trying to stop the drug trade and the prostitution. If nothing is done, Goa will have even more "the wrong type" of tourist as no one will want to come to the five star hotel if one is frighten to go out and about. Only the mafia will be staying these hotels.

- sanna cutter, finland | 02 nd July 2015 22:24

 

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