gaana icon of the Day Oh Shacks: Violations galore along Baga-Calangute stretch

Why is the department not taking action on such violators? What makes it turn a blind eye despite reports on the new paper? and why is Azgaonkar passing off his responsibility?

As evening turns into night along the Calangute-Baga stretch, fluorescent tents appear in front of beach shacks. Foldable contraptions, mostly made of metal poles, provide a private dining experience to patrons amid the throngs that visit these beaches. The only problem? They’re illegal.
Increasingly emboldened by the fact that violations are being overlooked by the authorities, beach shack operators along this stretch busily violate conditions laid down by the beach shack policy. While these tents are currently only along this stretch, observers say that others might copy it as well.

“Some charge extra, some don’t,” said a resident of Baga. He explained how having a tent offers the possibility of more business. “Tourists celebrating their birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special occasions opt for these.”

Another resident told TOI of a private shack operator who has hired a shack in front of his shack just to use the space to install tents and a ramp, which is used as a dance floor. “He continues to use the beach space, and nobody has stopped him,” he said.

Cruz Cardozo, president of the Shack Owners welfare society, (SOWS), said that he wasn’t aware of this violation and appeared shocked.

“There are limits as to what can be done,” said Cardozo. He said that thanks to a few shack operators who violate the beach shack policy, genuine operators face the consequences.

The tourism department, in consultation with the Goa Coastal Zone Management authority (GZCMA), demarcate areas for every allottee for setting up a shack. The number of decks beds allotted to each shack are also limited. Thus, the policy mandates that allottees should not expand their activities beyond the area earmarked. Apart from tables and chairs, shacks now install tents and other illumination.

Tourism minister Manohar ‘Babu’ Azgaonkar said he would have those tents removed. “We will have them removed, but it is also the responsibility of the respective coastal MLA to ensure that such things don’t happen in his constituency,” he said.

Antonio Mascarenhas, a former member of the GCZMA, said that there’s nothing new about violations by beach shack operators. The violations have a bearing on the “beach ecology”, he said.

During monsoon, Mascarenhas said the coast of Goa is directly hit by heavy winds, and when it coincides with the high tide line, it induces consequent high waves and water over shoots the beach. “It is very important that sand dunes are protected,” he said. “The natural rejuvenation of the beach happens between September and March.”

“It is necessary that the level of the beach is higher than the level of the sea, else the water level rises over the beach, as it happened last month,” Mascarenhas said. “There is no point in blaming the supermoon. We are to blame for the human interference on the beach.”

Mascarenhas, a former NIO scientist, said that he had opposed excess human activities which interfere with the eco-system of the beach. He also said that the GCZMA’s suggestion to the govermment to natural nourish beaches by depositing sand that’s eroded was never taken seriously.

What the policy says:

· No tariff boards/standees shall be allowed outside the shack or on top of the shack. In case of violation, the boards shall be confiscated and security deposit forfeited

· Timing for operation of Shack shall be from 7am to 11pm and no loud music shall be played beyond 10pm.

· The sound of the music played shall be heard only within the shack and shall not cause any disturbance to surrounding occupants.

· Only 2 speakers of 12.5 watts RMS each is allowed. Amplifier beyond 25 watts RMS is prohibited.