Tuesday 22 September 2020

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Infrastructure | Ports

No beaches, only business in Vasco


Destroying both the beaches in the port town, the Mormugao Port Trust is planning to expand its berths and convert it into a multi-commodity port.

Situated at one of the rare natural harbours in India, the Vasco da Gama city was developed by the Portuguese colonialists by developing port facilities at one end of it, called the Harbour till date. The same was taken over by the MPT after liberation in 1961.

Since then, the port has been monopolised with iron ore exports, Goa's prime mineral wealth, recording 46 per cent of country's total iron ore exports to various Asian and European countries. As the recession has hit the trade and mineral stock getting scarce, the MPT has now chalked out expansion plans with private participation, to make it a multi-commodity port.

To expand its berth capacity, Vasco's scenic beauty is put to stake as it would destroy both the beaches situated right in the heart of the port town, which also has no amusement facilities of any kind. In fact, allowing unplanned expansion of the town has made it the most congested town of Goa.

A small beach at Kharvewaddo, which means a settlement belonging to the fishermen, was seldom used for relaxation purpose as the local fisherfolk community anchored their trawlers there. The MPT now plans to reclaim the whole stretch and build seven berths there, including a fishing jetty.

Along with that would be major reclamation adjacent to the Chicalim hillock of around 350 acres. In fact, the area was reduced from 750 acres as the Central Water & Power Research Centre said it would affect the whole ecological balance and water flow of river Zuari joining the Arabian Sea.

On the western side of the town is the Baina beach, most of the part of which is presently captured by the red light area. While the locals started a movement four years ago to shift the red light area and allow locals to enjoy the beach, the state authorities have decided to shift it, but for the benefit of the MPT and not the locals.

While planning rehabilitation of 300 families in the red light area, the beach area would be now reclaimed by the MPT to construct the outer harbour, an ambitious project worth over Rs 2500 crore, with the help of private participation.

The plan it to utilise it exclusively for handling oil cargo, laying a special pipeline from there to Zuarinagar, where would be shifted the oil tanks, presently existing in the port town. While the project is estimated to be completed in five years, the MPT is also planning to construct a four-lane highway along the Baina beach area by 2001.

The 18 km-highway project, from Harbour to Verna, has already been approved by the concerned authorities in Delhi and locally, to be built by the Border Roads Organisation. The project cost of Rs 62 crore also includes rehabilitation of the sex workers of Baina, for which the state machinery is gearing up.

The major share of Rs 40 crore for it comes from the National Highway Authority of India while the commerce ministry is also contributing Rs seven crore, besides Rs 15 crore from the MPT. The state government has agreed to acquire the land, including its operation to evict the sex workers from Baina.

The MPT authorities justify its action, claiming that it would help the Goan economy to prosper further while also taking the port development to new heights. However, they skilfully avoid replies to the question whether such a money-oriented development is justified at the cost of total destruction of the natural treasures like the beaches.

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