Hide & seek over grounded ship continues

| 25 February 2002 22:42 IST

While a ‘bomb’ is still ticking on Goa’s famous Candolim-Calangute-Baga beachline, the state government continues playing hide and seek over removal of M V River Princess, the ship grounded here for nearly two years now.

After making tall claims of passing a special legislation to empower the state authorities to take over such ‘nuisance’ which is hazardous for tourism, the tourism minister has now reversed his own director’s order to take over the wrecked-up ship.

M/s Salgaocar Mining Industries Pvt Ltd, the owner of the 26-metre long ore carrier, found to have been ‘playing’ series of legal battles with the state government whenever the owner was ordered to remove the ship or tenders were floated to tow away the ship. It is grounded hardly 500 metres off Goa’s internationally famous beach since 6 June 2000.

While no action was taken by any government authority against the ship owner for even causing oil spill initially, the local BJP government had then passed the Goa Tourist Places (Protection & Maintenance) Act and had then formally taken over the ship last month.

This action had obviously created little hope in the minds of the tourists as well as coastal villagers that the ship may be refloated before it breaks up during coming monsoon in June. But mine owner Anil Salgaoncar challenged even the tourism director’s order to take over the ship, citing technical reasons like natural justice and limited time etc.

Tourism minister Philip Neri Rodrigues, the appellate authority under the act, last week thus reversed his owner director’s order, which was issued amidst tall claims made by the chief minister Manohar Parrikar that his government has actually begun acting against the ‘nuisance’.

Parrikar’s tourism minister has now directed the tourism director to decide the matter within 30 days, after giving proper hearing to Salgaoncar. This would naturally delay the whole procedure of floating tenders for towing away the ship, before the monsoon winds hit Goan coast in the first week of June.

"The only option we are left with now is to file a public interest litigation", states Joseph Sequeira, the newly elected Calangute sarpanch. The Calangute gramsabha held on Sunday last, has fully endorsed his decision to approach the apex court.

Sequeira as well as Agnel Fernandes, his counterpart in the neighbouring Candolim village, are also upset over Parrikar’s non-committal attitude over removing the ship, when they personally met him recently. They are worried about total environmental destruction of the famous beach, if the ship breaks where it is grounded.

Though Parrikar also expresses similar concern, he however dismisses villager’s claim that the ship still contains few barrels of oil. The claim in this regard was made at a public meeting held early this month in the village, which was also attended by some environmentalists.

Parrikar alleges that some vested interests are involved in the false propaganda. But it is also a fact that the environmentally dangerous ship is still standing in the sea, raising serious questions about future of Goa’s tourism, not knowing whose vested interest it serves ultimately.

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