Beach cleaning machines will kill lives in sand: Goa greens

Panaji, July 22 : The Goa tourism ministry's decision to use heavy equipment to mechanically clean some of the most frequented beaches in the state has come in for opposition from civil society groups.

One such group, the Colva Civic and Consumer Forum Monday said that using machines to clean beaches would be environmentally disastrous to minor forms of life that crawl about in the sand.

"Our humble request to the government is that they should not experiment with the environment," Judith Almeida of the forum has said. The state tourism department last week floated a tender for 40 beach cleaning machines to clean most of the popular beaches along Goa's 105-km coastline.

Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said only two beaches, Calangute in north and Colva in the south Goa, would be slotted for mechanised beach cleaning. Later, other beaches too could be brought into the picture.

"It is for trial purposes that we chose two beaches which receive the maximum number of tourists," Parulekar said.

The minister also said that the terms in the tender also specify that the shortlisted candidate will not only have to machine-sweep the beach, but also take care of allied hygiene and garbage management issues like segregation of waste, disposal of degradable and bio-degradable waste as well as composting whatever organic waste is collected.

"It is a holistic management process which we want, not just cleaning and dumping of garbage," Parulekar said, adding that the mechanised beach cleaning could start by the time the tourist season begins, in September this year.

According to statistics tabled in the state legislative assembly earlier this year, the tourism department has spent nearly Rs.3 crore on cleaning beaches manually over the last two years.

The minister is already on record vis a vis the issue of environment care versus beach cleaning: "Environmentalists can also attend the demonstration so that they can see that no animal life, which lives in the sand on the beaches, is disturbed. The machines also do not interfere with the sand patterns."

The minister now says that beaches which are environmentally extremely sensitive, especially Morjim, Agonda, Mandrem and Galgibaga, where Olive Ridley turtles are known to nest annually, will be kept out of the purview of mechanised beach cleaning. Increasing tourism footprint on Goa's beaches has already decreased the number of turtle nesting sites over the years.

Apart from beaches, the sand stretches are home to shell fish and hordes of tiny sand crabs, which live in the porous sand pockets, among other species of fauna.

Goa annually attracts over 2.6 million tourists. Foreigners, especially Russians and citizens of the UK, account for half a million tourists flocking to the state in order to escape the harsh European winter and bask in the mild winter sun on Goa's beaches.

--IANS (Posted on 22-07-2013)

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