Updated: Jun 14
The stress-busting vacation hub Goa is under severe environmental and social threat.
There is no denying that Goa's splendid and scenic beaches, sun and sand, and the architectural splendour of its Goan temples, churches, and Old Portuguese houses have made it a favourite tourist destination for travellers from around the world. Under Portuguese rule for more than four centuries, Goa's geographical boundaries such as the Sahyadri range and the tidal rivers have attracted people and created a unique identity for its citizens. With its long history of meeting races, cultures, and religions of East and West over the centuries, Goa offers a multifaceted and distinct way of life where people of all religions live in peace with each other. A blend of Portuguese and Roman influences, the Goan cuisine is full of flavour and mouthwatering. Goan people are friendly and hospitable, aiding this state in truly becoming a ‘Tourist's Paradise’.
Currently, tourism is the state's most important economic activity and trade, hotels, and tourism have a multiplier effect on the local economy. In terms of income, output, employment, and foreign exchange generation, the tourism sector has contributed to the growth of the service sector-driven economy. Tourism contributes 18 percent of Goa's net state domestic product, and 14 percent of foreign currency earned in the country.
Today’s picture of Goa is a true marvel of the process of globalisation. However, this cradle of intercultural mingling and coastal aesthetics is not hidden from the damaging effects humans tend to bring everywhere they go. Some of the wounding effects of the thriving tourism industry of the state have been the commercialisation of tradition, dilution of identity, destruction of heritage sites, etc. In addition to this, there has been a dark culture of substance abuse, human trafficking and alcoholism germinating in the state, among other things. Sadly, Goa is frequently wrongly portrayed as the place for cheap, easy access to alcohol, drugs, and sex - and many tourists flock on over to the state simply because of this. Due to the incorrect portrayal of Goa as an idyllic holiday destination for sun, sand, and sex, the image of women there is negatively affected. When tourism is expected to help women from host regions advance socially and increase employment opportunities, the reality is different. Observations by the Centre for Responsible Tourism in Goa showed that 31.3% of women working in the state tourism sector feel unsafe at their workplace.
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Because the tourist sector tries to maximise its commercial interests at the expense of the environment, fast and unregulated tourism expansion has caused permanent environmental harm. Some of the major issues of Goa tourism include over-utilized waste disposal facilities, dumping of solid and liquid wastes, insufficient implementation of deterrent measures against beach pollution, water bodies, and environmentally sensitive regions, and violations of coastal zone control. The carrying capacity of Goa's water resources has been exceeded, and tourism-related activities have impacted the water resources in several coastal places. Uncontrolled marine tourism and water sports have irreversibly harmed coastal ecosystems. Tourism imposes a strain on transportation infrastructure, and the present infrastructure is insufficient to accommodate the travel needs of both tourists and resident communities. Littering and waste production have become big issues. The current trash management system is insufficient, and local administrations have been trying to handle the increasing rubbish created by visitors. In Goa, there is no mechanism in place to manage and recycle massive amounts of liquid and solid garbage created by the tourism sector. Overbuilding and extensive paving of shorelines have also resulted in serious habitat destruction and disruption, such as the destruction of nesting areas for sea turtles in certain beach areas in Pernem, such as Morjim, and Galgibag, one of the most famous nesting grounds in Canaconataluka.
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The government of Goa released the Goa Tourism Policy in 2019 to put the pedal to the metal of the objectives of the Goa Tourism Master Plan which was released in 2016. Under this policy, the government aims at making tourism in Goa environmentally and socially sustainable, i.e., ensuring the proper promotion of ecologically safe and environmentally conscious tourism infrastructure and making the tourism sector safe for the tourists and the residents. Other than this, the state has made conscious efforts towards minimising emissions. A great example of this is the influx of electronic buses being injected into the public transport system of the state.
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Aside from this, NGOs can play a significant role in mobilising the concerns of the local communities with regard to their physical and social environment and putting pressure on the institutions that can amend the harmful activities. Thus, NGOs need more governmental support since they are key to voicing the demands of the grass-root level population.
That being said, more stringent, guided and planned steps need to be taken by the government in order to preserve the ecological, cultural and social integrity of this coastal state. Tourists can actually help by adhering to the guidelines that are there set in place, and by making the conscious decision of not going to the state during peak seasons.
Achrekar, G. (2020, October 31). Tourism Development in Goa: Trends, Importance and Challenges. International Journal of Multidisciplinary in Management and Tourism, 3(1).
Falleiro, S. P. (2015). The Economic and Socio-Cultural Balance Sheet of Tourism in Goa: Future Options. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 5(2). https://www.ijsrp.org/research-paper-0215/ijsrp-p3815.pdf
Government of Goa. (2020). Goa Tourism Policy 2020.
Salgaonkar, S. P., & Salgaonkar, P. (2017). ROLE OF PANCHAYAT IN SUSTAINABLE TOURISM: INSIGHTS FROM GOA. International Journal of Tourism and Travel, 10(1).
Venugopalan, T. (2021). Tourism and Sustainability in India –Exploring Sustainability of Goa Tourism from the Perspective of Local Community. European Journal of Business and Management Research, 6(3).