Goa campaign against ‘water injustice’ (Letter from Goa)

June 29th, 2012 - 12:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, June 29 (IANS) A British charity has joined forces with a Catholic Church-backed NGO here to put an end to abusive and unethical tourism practices allegedly over-exploitative of Goa’s water resources.

Tourism Concern, an independent London-based charity which professes to “fight exploitation in tourism” and has a sphere of influence in 20 tourism-oriented countries worldwide, has called for an “end to water injustice resulting from poorly regulated tourism” in Goa, which annually receives nearly 2.6 million foreign tourists, nearly twice its indigenous population of 1.4 million.

“Tourism Concern, the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) and Eco Footprints are demanding urgent action by the Goa government to address the overexploitation of Goa’s water resources by growing numbers of resorts and hotels,” says an online petition floated by Tourism Concern, addressed to state Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar.

“Our research indicates that there is growing concern among people of Goa about the ways in which weakly monitored consumption and irresponsible disposal of water by hotels and resorts are depleting groundwater and wells, polluting waterways and beaches, appropriating public water supplies to the detriment of communities and livelihoods, including small-scale tourism entrepreneurs,” it further says.

Tourism Concern had earlier part-commissioned the CSJP, a social arm of the influential Church here, and a local green outfit, Eco Footprints, to conduct a survey highlighting the growing and complex inequities around access to water and its availability to communities in the state.

The study, titled ‘Reclaiming water rights: towards an equitable social contract’, has pointed a finger at a water mafia-like operations in Goa, where the tourism industry had an overwhelming leverage over the water share, as compared to the indigenous population.

“When tourism is marketed, water is somehow synonymous with a holiday. The user mindlessly consumes water with little understanding or recognition that their pleasures are contributing to the deprivation of an essential right and service to neighbouring populations,” the survey said.

According to Mark Watson, executive director of Tourism Concern, the campaign would also involve people from the UK, which sends the second largest contingent of tourists to Goa after Russia every year.

“Goa is popular with UK tourists and many major tour operators and hotel groups operate there. However, most visitors don’t realise the environmental devastation and water inequity being wrought by weak regulations and bad practices by the tourism sector. We’re asking people to back our campaign for change by signing our online petition,” Watson said.

A promotional campaign carried out by Tourism Concern claims that while a local resident used 14 litres of water per day, one visiting tourist accounted for nearly 1,785 litres of water in contrast.

“We are calling for the right to water and sanitation of local communities to be prioritised over water for luxury tourism development and tourist leisure,” says the petition, which is being circulated for online endorsement.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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