September 13, 2007

Gambling Away The Sal

I haven't traversed the river Sal as much as the Zuari and the Mandovi. It has much to do with geography as with anything else. Chinchinim, Assolna, Velim, Betul never ‘fell’ on the routes I frequented, except on occasions when wandering feet took me beyond Margoa in Salcete to Quepem or Cancona, passing Navelim, Chinchinim, Assolna, Velim, and Betul along the way by the Sal, on occasion squeezing past fishing nets drying out on the road in the Sun.

Consequently the Sal largely remained on the periphery of my consciousness, content in the belief that like forgotten memories from long ago it will dwell undisturbed in the recesses of time that has moved on, leaving untouched a piece of geography out of deference to the wishes of its inhabitants who, down the ages, sustained the land in as much as they drew sustenance from it, giving it character while deriving their own identity from it, that is until now.

The Government of Goa is pushing the State in the direction of Las Vegas, the Casino ‘Capital’ of the world. The fact that some local politicians from the coastal belt, known more for their muscle than intellect, are plumping for Casinos to be floated on the seas off Goa and on inland rivers has queered the pitch further, bringing the Government of Goa in direct conflict with the local fishing community who oppose the Casinos on the river, fearful as much of the culture seeping offshore and laying waste the youth as of the environmental damage that river dredging to accommodate Casino vessels will inflict on their livelihood. There is growing opposition from the local populace to the dredging of the river Sal to accommodate a Casino vessel floated by Hotel Leela to cater to well-heeled tourists and attract more of the same.

It was last October, on the eve of Diwali, that we rode down the winding roads, past Assolna and Velim along the Sal, stopping by the fishing Jetty at Cutbona to take in the early morning calm off the river and making small talk with fishing hands from Orissa employed on small Goan fishing vessels anchored in the waters. Maria Bai lay in the safety of the jetty, resting easily among the vessels crowding the waterfront, listening to voices floating in from the decks where youth bent over fresh catch of fish while local villagers gathered by the vessels to buy the catch straight off the decks. A warm sunshine had settled in while trees stirred in the gentle breeze.

At times of such serenity it is difficult to imagine the transitory nature of outward calm, belying the feeling of continuity that nature in its primeval state evokes even while disturbing currents might simmer within inches of the surface, threatening to upset the balance of the very same continuity. It is this state of well-being like the one we experienced on the banks of the Sal that day that I most fear, for it is when one begins to favour a state of permanence that its fragility begins to unravel.

If you believe that tourism should merely limit itself to facilitating transportation and basic accommodation of visitors without either changing or altering the identity of the local populace or mortgaging their livelihood to commercial interests of a few then you might want to write in to the below to express your concern and/or protest the decision of the Government of Goa to gamble away the Sal to Casino players with large stakes in the Five Star Hotels dotting Goa’s coastline.

Chief Minister of Goa - Mr. Digambar Kamat
Minister for Fisheries (Govt. of Goa) - Mr. Joaquim Alemao

Minister for Tourism (Govt. of Goa) - Mr. Francisco Pacheco

Minister for Water Resources (Govt. of Goa) - Mr. Filipe Rodrigues

Note: The link to the Council of Ministers page is available under the menu Government accessible at You can access the E-mail Ids of the above by following the respective links on the Council of Ministers page.

In addition to the above, the following Stakeholders matter as much

Captain of Ports:
Chief Secretary (Govt. of Goa):
Director (Goa Tourism):
Governor of Goa:
Director (Information and Publicity):
Director (Irrigation and Water Resources):
Director (River Navigation):

Your voice might help make a difference.


stephanie said...

I am so happy your visited and led me over here.

I want to explore your site more...I have never understood the whole concept of developing regions in this way. Why in the world would one travel such a distance to spend time in a casino. It is so distressing.

rishav said...

I need more information on the local habitat and culture and the intrusiveness of the 'casinos'..But get me the name of any famous tourism spot, which just offers basic acco and infra..(unless you are talking about those condenscending tourist themes where the local tribes lifestyles are portrayed as a dekko)..otherwise, tourism as a concept is accept it as a concept..and have a more muamced checks and balances. In the current form, the post seems regressive

Shantanu said...

Good point! I believe a middle-ground needs to be found. My recent trip to Europe was a revelation. I saw how well the Victorian buildings are maintained through-out in England while in India they have been demolished and replaced by anonymous glass structures. And in Switzerland, which gets a lot of tourists yet the place retains it's native look and feel everywhere (outside of the big cities).

backpakker said...

I agree Anil .Tourism should preserve and showcase the local culture instead of ruining it ...

Strays said...

Absolutely! Look what Caravella has done to Mandovi. All you have a is a bunch of drunk moneyladen businessmen playing poker on the pristine river. I wonder how that is tourism?? When it actually only takes away from the beauty of the place....than enhance it. We are strange people.

Smita said...

Tourism cannot leave any place untouched. And certain changes need to be made - even at the cost of previous means of livelihood (May result in something more lucrative even for the locals).

But every place is unique because ah well it has something unique. It is easier and ethical to preserve and nurture what is already there, rather than set up something new.

Anyway, I am partial to nature and people the way they are vis a vis casinos :) So, I would support your cause.

Hari Nair said...

Anil, this post of yours & the comments it got made me think a bit - at the end of which I found myself doing a post on my blog. Here it is.

H. Cardoso said...

Beautiful photos and report there! It reminded me of this phototrip I took in Goa as well:

BTW, many thanks for your visit to my blog, I was quite happy to find out about yours...

Dora said...

Well said.