Squeezed between the calamities of tourism and mining, Goa is on the brink, says CARMEN MIRANDA, as she calls for change
Herald 01 January 2010, Panaji
As 2010 dawns, ending another decade, Goa’s destruction continues unabated, driven by the greed of a few people inspired by an economic system that has enormous shortcomings, such as the environmental crisis that threatens to engulf us all.
We could have been the lucky ones, living in Goa with a pristine environment, enjoying the simple things in life, enriched by an idea of prosperity and happiness that did not know the hunger of consumerism that dominates society today and which comes at an enormous cost to planet Earth, and a deadly cost to Goa.
Goa, ‘the Pearl of the East’, among the smallest states in the country, could have been a jewel in the crown of India – a model of sustainable development that valued and cultivated its unique environment, culture and traditions which sustained and guided countless generations. It could have been an inspiration to the rest of the country.
Instead we ended up with a Goa which has lost its ‘pearl’ while being stripped from its lush forests and disembowelled by mining operations, and cursed by the worse kind of tourism one can imagine, fuelled by sex, gambling, drugs and crime.
Our biggest misfortune has been the unscrupulous and ignorant politicians with a misguided approach to development who have dominated politics for decades and whose governance amounted to protection of narrow interests, an assault on Goa’s dignity, traditions and environment, an assault on its capacity to provide a happy, prosperous and peaceful existence. We have been fooled into believing that this is the road to progress, but it has in reality been just a long rugged path of decline.
Economic growth has become an end in itself, and the narrow business interests of building contractors and mining barons have become sacred, riding way above the interests of the rest of the population.
Why do they have more rights to destroy the environment which is vital for our survival than the rest of us, who want to preserve the fine ecological balance of nature, and who know that our real wealth is in our irreplaceable forests and biodiversity, our water resources, our fertile agricultural land? What about our right to fight for our survival, and mitigate the impact of extreme weather episodes that are about to hit us hard as result of climate change caused largely by business and industry?
The environmental destruction has been justified as being in the pursuit of ‘sacrosanct’ economic growth – a myth that has spectacularly failed and enslaved society, and failed the fragile ecological systems on which we depend for survival.
Fortunately the search for an alternative to current destructive economic model is on, and already producing interesting sustainable possibilities, more in tune with the limitations of a finite planet. The sooner we accept them and put them into practice the better. But first we must challenge the status quo which is threatening our very survival.
Meanwhile Goa, ravaged by greed and irresponsible governance, lingers on precariously, between the Arabian Sea that is beginning to engulf its crowded beaches and the ever-increasing number of denuded gigantic dark brown dusty craters of the mining belt. Squeezed between two calamities, the Goans will soon have nowhere to run…
It’s obvious that many fellow Goans are aware of and fed-up with what is happening in Goa. Their criticism of the politicians in power has been so relentless that if the politicians had any shame and conscience, they would have by now resigned and gone into hiding!
But they cling on, and the list of blunders continues to grow, together with the list of measures that need to be taken urgently, before Goa reaches the point of no return. It is these measures that we need to concentrate on. We need to be clear about what we would do differently in Goa if we were in power, and we must be careful to avoid the pitfalls and perceived developmental needs that have misguided successive governments.
Given that criticism has not budged the culprits an inch nor moved them into changing their ways, I ask you: are we going to continue being merely helpless spectators of the destruction of Goa, or are we going to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! – and actually do something about it, such as offering or even imposing alternatives?
How can we move forward from just writing about it, into some concrete action that will provoke a radical change? Are we going to get organised, and get down to the business of stopping the plundering and looting of Goa, or are we going to just sit down under a coconut tree singing “adeus kortso vellu pauta, ai mujem kallizo fapsota” and writing excruciatingly painful descriptions of the mess that turned Goa into a place I don’t recognise any longer?
A growing number of Goans now share the feelings of a shattered Goan dream and are yearning for change. There are also potential leaders in Goa who together have the power to provoke a profound and radical change in politics without the colourings of partisan politics.
This is a call to those leaders that have acted in the past, and can do it again now, to unite and focus on the real enemy of Goa – the ruling powers. This ‘cause’ is bigger than our individual ambitions, and calls for bold and swift action to put the culprits in their rightful place – on top of a pile of garbage in the nearest street corner.
Goa’s reputation around the world is practically in the gutter – ruled by clueless men, corruption and crime, Goa does not have much time before it is irrevocably destroyed. It is in our hands the power to impose the end of impudent and shameless cynicism, the end of endemic corruption and institutionalised banditry.
What are we waiting for? For the next election, to recycle the same people into power again?
Enough of this affront of corruption at all levels of the administration and the unruly and unsustainable exploitation of Goa’s resources – everything has limits and we must draw the line now – else the destruction can be irreversible.
When our streets are pilled high with garbage; when agricultural land is piled high with buildings; when all our beaches are polluted and infested with shacks; when our hills and forests are bulldozed flat for mining; when our water tables are emptied by the mining operations, leaving us with dry wells and fountains and silted and polluted rivers; and our politicians have become billionaires – it is time to say enough is enough!
I hope that 2010 will be the year of unity and action among Goans who share a different dream for Goa – the year of courage and vigorous popular movement that produces a real reform in politics and radically changes governance.
It is not going to be an easy ride, but our genuine actions will explain themselves, while conformity and inaction will explain nothing to future generations. It is in our hands to systematically provoke a reform that will scare away from public life those swindlers and crooks who are sucking the blood out of Goa! Otherwise nothing will ever change.
Carmen Miranda is a Goan who frequents between Panjim and London