The tourism sector is booming and thus the need for more hotels to cater to the increase in demand has risen. But the luxury hotels are taking a toll on Goa’s ecosystem. Compared to the small boutique hotels, luxury hotels demand more land and resources. According to the people of Goa, these hotels are causing the Goan villages to lose their charm.
With the steep rise in inbound tourists, encroachment of the beaches across south Goa is on in full swing. A number of luxury resorts land up doubling their properties in the various parts of Goa, and due to this the scenic beauty and peaceful surroundings of Goan villages are harmed.
The North Goa beach belt has been completely consumed by the massive development project, with the village having lost its charm almost a decade ago, and presently it is only getting worse. Due to this concrete jungle and highly populated environment, foreign tourists have started moving towards South Goa.
South Goa is considered to be a more calm and peaceful place compared to the north, with lush green surroundings and less vehicular traffic. Tourists come to Goa for its serenity and beauty but the greed of making more money is swallowing that completely. Businessmen from north India have now started looking at south Goa as a virgin land to explore with their ambitious business plans.
If you look at the recent development chart in the south Goa, the construction of new resorts are on the rise. According to the Bloomberg Quint Reports, The number of major hotels and resorts has increased by 170 percent, from 42 in 2008 to 113 in 2018, according to the state department of tourism. In comparison, budget hotels grew 100 percent, from 2,142 in 2008 to 4,286 in 2018.
One of the local residents, a sailor by profession, Mr. Anthony D’Silva told the media that the development is crossing through the roof. “Our village is the size of a coconut shell, how can it take so many big resorts?” former sailor Anthony D’Silva let the question hang in the air as a luxury car whizzed past on the narrow village road that leads to Arossim beach in south Goa.
Arossim is one of the most beautiful villages situated in South Goa having typical Goan village roads, roughly five meters wide, curving several times around tiled-roof homes, under a perennial tree cover, before opening up at a dead end amid sand dunes near the Arabian Sea.
According to the reports, two big resorts are already operating at the Arossim beach within a four kilometers stretch and the proposed development of three more resorts will completely consume the beautiful beach in South Goa.
Despite of being the tiniest state in India, Goa is undoubtedly the most prosperous and healthiest state in the country, with a balanced sex ratio, and lowest infant mortality rate.
The state has good medical facilities with no shortage of health professionals. Now the rising luxury tourism in the state which needs an equal amount of infrastructure has perhaps become the matter of conflict in the state.
According to the Goa Tourism Department statistic reports 2017, Goa attracts an inflow of 7.8 million tourists, which is five times the state’s population! The reports further state that By October 2018, nearly 200 hectares of land or as much as 374 football fields, was involved in seven tourism-related conflicts, affecting about 3,100 people in Goa, according to data collected by Land Conflict Watch, a network of researchers that maps and collects data about ongoing land conflicts in India.
The issue here is not the development of the luxury hotels but the amount of space it takes to contract the similar amount of rooms that budget hotels do. The reports say that the ‘A’ category hotels (Luxury Hotels/Resorts) are just 2 percent of all hotels, but they are much bigger in size and host only 25 percent of the rooms available in Goa.
An average Category-A property would have 110 rooms, three times the number of rooms in smaller hotels under Category-B and 25 times that of the lowest Category-D hotels. As a result, even though smaller hotels are routinely hauled up for noise and environmental violations, it is the high-end hotels that require large tracts of land, put more burden on local resources, and are often opposed by villagers.
What happens when the big luxury resorts are setup in small villages
Let’s take the example of Arossim village, where three more luxury resorts are proposed to be built. The reports say that a big business house from Delhi has invested into the huge piece of land in Arossim, by purchasing the beach facing properties from rich landlords who held a Portuguese-era land title to it.
The villagers are intensifying the movement against the development due to its ecological importance to the community. “There is no dispute over the ownership of the land or the sale, but two separate groups of villagers: Cansaulim Villagers Action Committee (CVAC) and Cansaulim-Arossim-Cuelim Civic and Consumers Forum (or CAC-CCF) argue that although the site is a private property, it is ecologically important to the community because of storm water drains carrying excess rainwater from the village converge into the property before draining out into the sea.” It is also the regions’ biodiversity ‘hotspot’, supporting a large green cover, fauna and medicinal herbs.
The recent development at Kesarwal spring is also opposed by the villagers. The GTDC having its own resort which has been closed down for a long time had floated the tender for the redevelopment of the same but it was strongly opposed by the villagers.
The scenario is same across the state. The people of Goa do not want the encroachment of their land and thus many big projects have been stopped the midway.
What to do?
Nobody wants Goa to lose its serenity, wilderness and beauty to make way for concretised metro-like ambiance dotted with 5 star hotels. Each place has its own identity and charm and were such astronomical constructions to continue, Goa would remain Goa no more. The need of the hour is to take measured steps, and take them wisely. The rising number of tourists demands a greater number of rooms, something that would benefit Goa’s economy. But this should not be allowed at the cost of ecological loss. Hotels could be permitted takeover of land under the condition they maintain a certain percentage of endemic forest cover, and aid in protection of biodiversity. Development plans in any area should be taken after discussions with the local Panchayats or people’s groups, because it is their home and they know the area better. The tourism department could keep a check on the number of hotels that are allowed to come up in the state, and not just give all those who apply a free hand. It isn’t like all the Luxury Hotel rooms are packed.
If our readers have more suggestions on battling the rising Luxury Hotel constructions do write to us and let us know. the more we discuss and churn ideas, the more chances Goa’s biodiversity has for survival.