Arambol’s coastline on the edge

PANAJI/ARAMBOL: The once beautiful Arambol beach, which gained in popularity a decade ago after Russian tourists started frequenting it, is undergoing slow degradation as it bears the increasing onslaught of commercial activity.

While the tourism department permits less than a dozen beach shacks along the Arambol beach, considering it as a small stretch, come tourist season, the number of shacks greatly increase with more that 30 private beach shacks setting up business, albeit illegally, much to the chagrin of the beach shack operators.

But, the pressing problem is not that beach shack operators and the tourism department are losing business. What is most worrisome is the environmental degradation of the Arambol beach caused by the presence of large number of private shacks.

Questioned about a trench dug close to one of the entrances to the beach, a shack operator on conditions of anonymity shared that most private shacks release their waste water into the sea. “If you want to see them dispose off their sewage into the sea, come here late night,” he said.

The tourism department’s flying squad visits the beach on and off, but it appears that the officials have not noticed the trench. Their interest seems to be limited to taking pictures of garbage. Their presence serves to temporarily drive away vendors.

“What is the use of complaining when no action will be taken,” said a beach shack operator who added that they had informed authorities about private shacks releasing sewage into the sea. “We prefer to keep our mouths shut now,” he said.

The same shack operator shared that all the private shacks are operated by non-Goans and that the shacks are rented out to them by locals.

“These people are here to make money. Environment is the least of their concerns. Once the season ends they leave,” he says.

By four every evening, private shack operators start readying for the night.

Their waiters and helpers come with shovels to level the surface of the beach to make the ground even for laying tables and chairs. Depressions are levelled off by sand filling. Nobody questions these shack operators.

While the tourism department issues licences to beach shack operators in consultation with the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA), private shacks are primarily the domain of the GCZMA, which is yet to issue no-objection certificates (NOCs) to them for the ongoing season.

A member of the GCZMA, who did not want to be named, said these private shacks are operating illegally, but had no answer when asked what action the GCZMA would take against them.
“What’s the point of taxing us, when they (private shacks) are conducting businesses illegally?” questioned another shack operator saying that while they have to pay close to Rs1.5 lakh to the government by way of different fees at the start of every season, private shacks conduct their business with impunity.
Another rampant illegality observed at the Arambol beach was tourists and others bringing their two wheelers right onto the beach. No vehicles are permitted on any beach except for the vehicles used by lifeguards for patrolling. In fact, one will even find two wheelers parked on the Arambol beach at a certain part.