Sunday 15 September 2019

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Society | Environment

River Princess may ruin Goan kingdom

 

One oil spill has already been experienced, the second one is on the anvil. The time bomb is still ticking on the shore of Goa. There is no authority who can confidently state that it won't explode. And if it does, the golden beachline of Goa will be the history, at least for the few coming years.

The cause is MV River Princess, the 26-metre long ore carrier, which is grounded for over one year on a sand bar - hardly 100 metres away from Goa's most famous coastline of Sinquerim, Candolim, Calangute and Baga.

Standing there in a tilted position with a ruptured bottom since 6 June last year, its condition has deteriorated to the worst. It can break with little storm. To make it happen, some 'unknown elements' have made holes to the ship at the water line, so that water flows in freely, obviously to prevent from floating it away.

"I will present an action plan within a week, to get it removed by October end", chief minister Manohar Parrikar, belonging to the BJP, has announced in the Assembly on 6 July. He is the second chief minister in last 13 months, who has miserably failed to take any action in this regard.

Anil Salgaoncar, who owns the ship, has made the state as well as central authorities run from lower courts to upper court whenever a case is filed against M/s Salgaoncar Mining Industries Ltd. Caught up into litigations, the state has however left the powerful mine owner scot free.

"He is desperate to topple my government, but he will not succeed", claims Parrikar. But when it comes to taking action against the politically powerful mine owner, the BJP chief minister says that laws are very weak to take any action against him.

There is not a single department left which has not filed a case against the SMI. The district magistrate has passed three different orders while also filing a police complaint. In addition, the state pollution control board and the science, technology and environment department have also issued directives to Salgaoncar.

While some of them are challenged by the SMI in the upper courts, provisions of acts like the Environment Protection Act or the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act have been proved toothless. He has not even bothered to comply by the orders issued by the union environment ministry to remove the ship.

"You show me one good provision and I will put him behind the bars", states Parrikar. Sanjiv Khirwar, the district magistrate, on the other hand states that he would immediately arrest Salgaoncar, but only if the ship breaks.

After it drifted away in a stormy monsoon weather and grounded off Sinquerim beach in June, the huge ship started discharging oil in September. The panic among the hoteliers and tourism-related industry was obvious as the whole coastal belt is the hub of Goa's beach tourism.

"We are still worried as we cannot even imagine what would happen if the ship breaks", states S V Balaram, the president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa. The beachline consists of hundreds of hotels and restaurants, from five star to small one-room rented houses.

The shacks all along the coastline here is a major attraction among the three lakh foreign tourists, most of whom are seen sunbathing on the beach. Calangute is also on the agenda of most of the 10 lakh Indian tourists who come down to enjoy Goan beaches during the season - from September to April.

The tourism industry - the backbone of Goan economy - is just not worried about yet another oil spill if the ship breaks, but the breaking itself. "No tourist will come to see the dirty black beach if the ship is dismantled on the beach itself", states worried Balaram.

North Goa Collector Khirwar has now complained to the union environment ministry, expressing suspicion that the owner himself has made holes to the ship by removing plates to harm the prospects of towing it away.

One attempt made by the state to invite global tenders for floating it away to the dockyard has failed as SMIT International Singapore Pvt Ltd has withdrew after the contract was awarded to them in March. Considering the proximity of monsoon season, the firm said it would not be possible to complete the work within stipulated time.

The Coast Guard, a nodal agency in case of marine pollution, has already intimated to the government about its helplessness in controlling pollution, in case the ship breaks during monsoons. Even after removing 40 tonnes of oil from the ship in September, V S R Murthy, the Coast Guard commandant, still suspects around 15 tonnes of leftover.

The National Institute of Oceanography, the Goa-based institute of international stature, has carried out a study stating that the oil spill has already hampered the marine life. In case of another oil spill, it would deteriorate the sea water further while also making it difficult to fish, swim or carry out any kind of water sports activity, states the report.

Though Parrikar is expected to announce his action plan this week, it is crystal clear that the ship cannot be floated and towed away before October. In case it breaks before that, then it is equally crystal clear that Goa cannot be saved from ecological marine disaster, which may also spell doom for the tourism industry - the prime living of the coastal population here.





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people are stealin oil from river princess..esp the ministers in goa

 
Divya , Santa Cruz

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