Mechanised cleaning of Goa’s Beaches

Goa’s world renowned beaches that attract millions of tourists from around the world will now be cleaned by machines, according to a statement by Tourism minister Dileep Parulekar. 

Once considered pristine, Goa’s beaches are now filled with litter and hence massive mechanised cleaning machines will be put into service to clean Goa’s beaches. The advantages are huge – these specially designed machines are able to clean the beaches faster and more thoroughly than manual cleaning. These machines are not only able to clean larger rubbish such as plastic bags but are also able to suck in smaller pieces of garbage such as cigarette butts. 

While there are many advantages of such cleaning machines, environmentalists fear that the mechanised cleaning of Goa’s beaches could harm the animal life in the sand. Goa’s beaches are home to hordes of tiny sand crabs, which live in the porous sand pockets and environmentalists fear that these crabs that run about on the beach could also be picked up by these large machines. 

Another side effect of these beach cleaning machines is the loss of livelihood for the hundreds of manual beach cleaners who have been employed in the past. Unfortunately, neither the local newspapers nor the Tourism Minister has focussed on this aspect. Often, these beach cleaning personnel are the only breadwinners in the family and this sudden loss of income will definitely have a negative aspect on their ability to survive. It is a shame that in a country of over one billion, India and Goa have to resort to machines replacing people. While the concept of replacing people with machines has been popular in the west where labour is expensive, replacing people with machines seems rather absurd in India and Goa where there is an excess of cheap labour. 

The use of machines to clean up Goa’s beaches also goes to show that the tourists who come to Goa are not conscious enough of their surroundings to take their garbage with them. After smoking their cigarettes, tourists simply stub them out in the sand and leave them there. The same problem is with plastic chip packets and tetra pack juice packets. It is common to see vendors selling throwaway packets of chips and juice at the entrace to the Calangute / Baga beach. The tourists that purchase these packets simply throw them in the sand when they are empty.

While it is admirable that the Goa Tourism Department is making an effort to clean up Goa’s beaches, a concerted effort is required to educate tourists about the importance of not littering and keeping Goa’s beaches clean. Another effective measure is definitely the introducing of more garbage bins on the beach. The last time I walked along the Calangute – Baga beach stretch, I couldn’t find a single garbage bin in which to throw my rubbish.

The most popular beach-belt in Goa, which stretches from Baga beach to Sinquerim beach, is likely to be the first Goan beach where these machines will be tested followed by the Benaulim beach to Utorda beach stretch in South Goa. 

What do you think of the idea of using machines to clean Goa’s beaches ? Do let me know in the comments…

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Big Foot, Lutolim

More commonly known as Big Foot, ‘Ancestral Goa’ is a ‘Center for preservation of Art, Culture and Environment’ created by Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares and situated in the small village of Loutolim in South Goa. 

At the entrance, you see a bronze statue of a guard and an elaborate door and wall decoration. Once inside, you see that the uniqueness of Big Foot Lutolim lies in the fact that it is an open-air museum that recreates Goan rural life as it was hundreds of years ago.  You can choose to visit the art gallery, that showcases work done by local children and artisans, a handicraft centre with locally produced Goan artifacts, a restaurant, a cross, a spring, a bird habitat, a spice yard and much more. The model village also includes a variety of miniature houses showcasign the traditional occupation and social classes that existed a century ago – from fishermen, Goan artisans, farmers, liquors shops to village markets and even a feni distillery.

From the dream of Maendra Alvares to the major tourist attraction that it is today, Big Foot Lutolim has certainly come a long way since it opened in 1995. Today, not just tourists – both Indian and European – but artists, students, teachers, nature lovers, environmentalists and others are among the visitors. 

Maendra began Big Foot Lutolim with a barren hill covered with shrubbery and thorny bushes and it is quite amazing to see the metamorphosis into a world famous terraced and landscaped parkland. Although Maendra could have sold off the 9 acres of land to land developers and lived a life of luxury like many other Goans, he chose instead to invest precious time and money to create Big Foot Lutolim. His aim was to create a treasure-house of artifacts as well as recreate the traditions and culture of Goa for future generations to see and learn. In recognition, the Goan Government deemed Big Foot as the “Most Innovative and Unique Project in India’s Tourism Industry” while the Goan State Department of Education called it a “Very Educative Centre” for students.

Have you been to Big Foot Lutolim ? What was your favourite part of the open air museum ? Let me know in the comments…

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Mandovi Cruise Boat Owners in Panaji unite

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While most foreign tourists from the UK and Europe prefer a tuk-tuk ride, Indian tourists to Goa simply must go on a Mandovi Cruise atleast once during their Goa holiday. 

The Mandovi Cruise Boat jetty is a 5 minute walk from my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay in Fontainhas, Panaji’s Latin Quarter, and I used to often take a walk in the evening to the jetty to watch the tourists as they waited eagerly to board the Mandovi Cruise Boats for their evening entertainment. 

However, as is often the case in areas with high tourist demand, touts – so called “agents” – were duping the innocent tourists and harassing them. 

In order to weed out these touts and make the experience more pleasant for tourists, Mandovi Cruise boat operators in Panaji have now decided to unite under one banner to streamline the Mandovi Cruise business that attracts over 3,000 tourists each day.

In one of the biggest changes to their business on the Mandovi river since they started out in 1984, the Mandovi cruise boat operators have decided to introduce single window system for ticketing as well as streamlining the entertainment services offered on their Mandovi Cruise Boats. The state-run Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) has done great work in bringing all the Mandovi Cruise boat operators under one banner by doing away with their separate ticket counters and operating from a single window.

As a result, tourists will now be able to easily purchase tickets for the Mandovi Cruise Boats at one single window, thus reducing the commotion and confusion that usually ensued. I remember watching the mad rush by touts and Mandovi Cruise Boat operators alike.

Now that the boats will leave the jetty at regular intervals, thus cooperating and not competing against one another, the rush to attract tourists will also be a thing of the past. 

Any move to simplify the life of the Goan tourist can only be welcomed wholeheartedly. Tourism Minister Deepak Parulekar must be congratulated on his efforts to streamline and simplify the processes that tourists were faced with in purchasing tickets for the Mandovi Cruise Boats.

Have you purchased a ticket in the new single window ? Do let me know about your experience in the comments… 

Hike in Goa Monsoon Tourism

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The jury still seems to be out on whether a Goa Monsoon Holiday is a good idea or not. 

But as Goa Tourism Department statistics show, Goa registered a 6.5% growth in monsoon tourism from June 2012 to September 2012 as compared to the same period last year. While Goa welcomed 3.8 lakh visitors during the Goa Monsoon in 2011, this year Goa received 4.05 lakh tourists – an increase of over 24,000 tourists. Both these figures were for foreign and domestic tourists. But it was the foreign tourists that made the big difference. While  Goa had 5,938 foreign visitors in September 2011, it saw 16,141 foreign tourists visiting Goa in September 2012. That meant a whopping increase of nearly 60%. 

In the type of tourists, MICE tourists were fewer this monsoon season but were replaced by a sizeable increase in FITs (free and independent travelers), families and young couples.

To entice tourists to visit Goa in the monsoon, hoteliers offered special monsoon discounts and discounted monsoon packages that included accommodation as well as  other freebies including airport transfers, free half-day sightseeing tours to Old Goa including the UNESCO Heritage Zone of the Basilica of St Francis Xavier, boat cruises on the Mandovi river and other goodies. 

It is the nature of the monsoon in Goa that makes visiting Goa during this period such a difficult decision to make. The monsoon in Goa is much harsher than in other places, especially the UK and Europe. What the West calls rain is merely a light drizzle for a Goan. When the monsoon comes in all its fury, the rain lashes down for days and months on end. It rains down so hard that the pressure of the raindrops can be quite unnerving sometimes. Hence, for long, tourists avoided Goa in the monsoons like the plague. 

However, soon tourists (both Indian and foreign) realised that one could enjoy the monsoon in Goa if one came prepared. Strong umbrellas, shorts and slippers made the monsoon in Goa much easier to bear. Plus, smart tourists realised that they could get great deals from hotels in the monsoon. However, it was not just the price that attracted more and more tourists to Goa during the monsoon. 

Some tourists like the French had no other choice, with their holidays coinciding exactly with the Goan Monsoon. So they made the best of their time there, walking about coolly under their umbrellas. 

Others, like my Dad, loved the Goan Monsoon because it meant that Goa did not have as many tourists as the rest of the year. The tourists that did come were able to enjoy Goa to the fullest, without being rushed by the usual crowds that Goa sees. 

Another reason was of course, that apart from July and half of August, it did not rain the whole time in Goa. After the showers stopped, Goa showed itself in all its beauty with the green fields greener than ever and all nature basking in a washed, clean look that forced one to stop and watch in awe. 

Take your rubbish back with you, a Goan Village tells tourists

Goa’s world famous beaches attract nearly 3 million tourists every year.

Unfortunately, however, most tourists throw their rubbish on the beach itself, leaving Goa’s beaches dirty and full of garbage. Calls by the Goa Tourism department and the Goa Government as well as the Goa Coast Guard seem to have no effect on the amount of garbage generated on Goa’s beaches. Which is why a Goa beach village has now come up with the unique idea of making tourists carry back the garbage that they generate while spending time on the beach. 

Betalbatim, a small Goan beach village around 30 km from Panaji (the capital of Goa) passed a resolution recently mandating that tourists who picnic or party on its beach would be given plastic bags and made to carry back their garbage with them. 

What seems quite a drastic measure is in fact a last ditch response to clean up Goa’s beaches. Goa’s overcrowded beaches and countryside have seen garbage piling up, with the state failing to put in place a proper and effective garbage disposal mechanism. Beer bottles, empty tetra packs and chips packets can be seen strewn across the sand, left behind by the tourists.

But it must be said, in all fairness, that there are no proper dustbins or proper garbage disposal containers for those tourists who want to be responsible. Neither the coastal village panchayats nor the tourism department is equipped to safely dispose of the garbage collected by sweepers.

Whether this move would actually prove effective in helping minimise the amount of garbage thrown on the beach is to be seen. Garbage is one of the most contentious issues facing the Goa Tourism department along with overcrowding of its beaches.

Unfortunately, garbage on beaches is not a problem faced by Goa alone. A quick google search for “garbage beach” throws up some shocking results of beaches flooded by garbage including the famous Brighton beach which had a whopping 23 tonnes of garbage. 

What Goa needs is more dustbins along the beach as well as a proper garbage collection system that ensures that the collected garbage does not remain on the beach for a prolonged period of time. Goa is also testing a mechanised beach cleaning system that will clean the beaches more effectively and faster than manual cleaning methods. 

But mechanised beach cleaning or not, it is up to each and every one of us who visits the beach to make sure that we take back all our rubbish with us, instead of leaving it on the beach for someone else to clean up!