Tuesday 28 Sep 2021

A sea of black, coastal pollution goes unchecked


Environmental pollution and damage are two major issues that the State government continues to grapple with due to their sensitive nature. The question before us is why is the State government that claims concern for environmental degradation fails to seriously address an equally critical subject -- coastal pollution -- one that threatens to impact tourism and the economy of the State?

While the State administration has barred the manufacture and sale of Plaster of Paris (PoP) Ganesh idols and comes hard on manufacturers of non-green idols with hefty fines on sellers and buyers, it has turned a blind eye to another significant issue -- tarballs and the coastal hazard they create. It would be a great disservice if such an issue continues to be ignored and screws are tightened on environmental pollution elsewhere. Sadly, the courts have been consistently reminding the executive about their duties towards protecting nature. If we may recall, in a recent observation where the apex court refused to relax its earlier ruling on the use of fireworks, Justice D Y Chandrachud held that “we are in a very dangerous situation. Life itself is in danger. We are amidst a pandemic....We are conscious that festivals matter a lot, but life itself has been imperilled now. There can be no greater values than the preservation of life”.

Protection of the environment and preservation of life are inter-connected and hence become an immediate priority. In Goa, the people of the State have been taking cudgels against moves of development that trespass environmental concerns. Beach cleanliness and maintenance are critical to Goa because the State’s tourism depends on the health of the coastline. People’s fight against the flaws of the draft coastal zone management plan is testimony to the sensitivity it holds.

Against the backdrop of environmental concerns and protection, Goa’s coastline continues to be smudged every year with tarballs and litter. Vast portions of Goa’s coastline including prime beaches -- Miramar, Calangute, Colva, Benaulim, Majorda, Pernem, Canacona and the tourist hotspot of Anjuna - are swamped with tar balls reducing the coastline into an eyesore, and hindering free movement.

A study by the National Institute of Oceanography had concluded that deep-sea oil spills by tankers are responsible for the tarball phenomena. The study held that the oil release sullies the water surface with a slimy blackish coating making it unsafe to bathe in the seas. While the State environment minister claims to have written to the Centre and reiterates that he will follow up again, a concerted action to tackle this issue is lacking. Merely writing to the Centre once a year will not help Goa resolve this issue. Tourism Minister Manohar Babu Ajgaonkar’s assurance that the beach will be cleaned in two days only reflects the hollowness with which the issue is being looked at.

The State government has big reasons to worry because beach tourism is directly impacted, and if remedial action is not taken, Goa could feel the impact on footfalls since re-opening is on the horizon. It appears that the State has casually conceded to the situation and is merely watching as a mute spectator as more and more slush continues to wash ashore polluting the sandy shores of Goa. The helplessness in protecting the coast is precisely the reason why marine projects fail to get public acceptance in the State.

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