Goa government cozying up to 5-star hotel lobby: Shack operators

September 17th, 2012 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Sep 17 (IANS) Operators of thatched beach shacks, which are among the most regular features on Goan beaches, claim to be under assault from the Goa government and accuse it of cozying up to the “powerful” five-star hotel lobby in the state.

Centre for Responsible Tourism (CRT), a church-affiliated tourism resource group, has also ridiculed the state government’s argument that the reason why shacks have not been allotted along Goa’s 105-km beach stretch yet, is to prevent sand erosion along the coastline.

“There is a genuine fear that powerful lobbies in the (hospitality) industry are working against shack owners. Five-star hotels have always eyed the business of the shack owners. The GCZMA is also potentially playing into the hands of the lobbyists,” Maverick Fernandes, spokesperson for the CRT told reporters here.

The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA), on recommendations of the Goa water resources department (WRD), had issued directions delaying the setting up of shacks on beaches in order to “protect” the coastline from getting eroded.

In its order, the GCZMA had said that shack allotment should be delayed till mid-October to “avoid the disturbance of sand accretion and beach degeneration” caused by the movement of hundreds of thousands of tourists on Goa’s beaches.

“This is an absolutely bizarre reason. First you say you want tourism and you call tourists. Then you don’t allow shacks on beaches where they can refresh themselves. The hotels are eyeing the business,” president of the Shack Owners Welfare Society (SOWS) Cruz Cardozo told IANS.

He also added that the Goa government’s shack policy, which was due in July this year, was still not ready.

The Goa tourism ministry issues temporary six-month shack licences to applicants on the basis of a lottery, which is conducted annually just after the monsoon exits the state in September.

“The government should impose similar measures for the big hotels too. One fails to understand how only shack operations would disturb the sand accretion. Why the double standards, especially when the big hotels produce larger quantum of sewage and garbage,” Fernandes said.

Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said the deadline of Oct 15 for allocation of shacks was unavoidable.

“We have to make sure that the beaches remain safe and good for tourists. If there are no beaches, there is no tourism. My ministry is in touch with the society (SOWS) and we are trying to resolve the issue,” Parulekar said.

There are over 300 shacks along Goa’s coastline which cater to about 2.6 million tourists who visit the state annually. According to data released by the Goa government recently, over one-fourth of Goa’s coastline is affected by erosion.

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