Goa’s tourism stakeholders demand conservation of protected forests, promotion of ecotourism in the hinterland
It has been reported that the proposed projects in this region will require cutting down at least 50,000 trees.
In a letter addressed to the Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State as Ministry of Tourism and Minister of Culture Prahlad Singh Patel, officials from the Goa State Government and the National Board for Wildlife appealing to revoke the forest clearances approved for Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in South Goa. “Our tourism livelihood comes year after year because of this natural beauty. We cannot take this for granted,” said the members of Goa’s tourism industry.
It has been reported that the proposed projects of railway double-tracking, widening of NH4A highway and laying of 400 kV transmission line in this region will require cutting down at least 50,000 trees. As these areas rich with biodiversity are an important part of Goa’s hinterland tourism, the stakeholders of the tourism industry have appealed to the government not to go ahead with the proposed deforestation.
The letter by over 150 members of Goa’s tourism industry stated that deforestation from these projects will adversely affect the future development of hinterland tourism, and the current tourism initiatives in the area will be detrimentally affected as well.
Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park are important destinations for environmental tourism operators and visitors in Goa. These areas house some of the already existing tourist destinations like several waterfalls including the iconic Dushsagar, a possibly the oldest temple in Goa at Tambdi Surla, and so on.
Khaire's black shieldtail (Melanophidium khairei)is a species of burrowing snake of family Uropeltidae,endemic to India&was discovered in 2016.This gem amongst snakes of India is also found in Mollem national park,Goa an important forest that's threatened by 3 linear projects1/2 pic.twitter.com/fQ3JR4aU9f— Prakash W. Kamat (@PrakashWKamat) June 22, 2020
“The protected area is Goa's largest wildlife sanctuary, is home to incredible biodiversity, indigenous communities, and rich cultural heritage. It boasts of hundreds of endemic species - animals, plants and fungi. Being a tiger habitat, in addition to a home for other apex predators and creatures on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threatened list, makes this environment ideal for tourism and conservation programmes hand in hand," the letter stated.
“A fractured future lies ahead for the tourism industry if the value of biodiversity and ecological conservation is overlooked in making such industrial concessions,” said Pooja Rani, Co-Founder of Khoj-aao! Adventures and a member of the Responsible Tourism Collective.
She added, “Ecotourism in Goa is currently at a nascent state. On the coastal side, we have a few people who are doing it quite well, but in the hinterland, we are still to explore our forests and biodiversity for tourism a lot, of course in a responsible way.”
The letter also stated that the state’s tourism industry has seen a 30 percent decline from 2017 to 2018.
Rani further said, “Ecotourism in Goa has a huge potential, however, tourists don’t know about the numerous activities like camping, trekking, waterfall hiking, birdwatching that are so enchanting. The conventional options of beaches, casino take over. Only the offbeat travellers explore Goa’s hinterland, but those are very few in number, and they can easily switch over to other untouched options they have in other places like Kerala or Sri Lanka. That’s why Goa’s forests need to be protected and explored.”
“In terms of hinterland tourism, I see huge potential for development and employment generation. Dudhsagar Waterfall has a huge captive audience and mass market, which does not even require advertising. Collem village could position itself as the 'Gateway to Dudhsagar'. Small improvements could go a long way to ensure year-round tourism. This tourism segment should be promoted in the form of small scale, locally-owned initiatives specifically for agriculture and nature tourism,” added Ashok Malkarnekar, Partner at Dudhsagar Plantation.
“Those who are sanctioning projects like these need to start thinking long-term, instead of running after these short term benefits. They need to look around them, learn from what is happening in the world, and think of ways to apply it here,” said Vijaya Josephine Pais of Offbeat Goa.
“It’s high time that we need to think of sustainable and responsible ways to travel. Many other states have started it, but in Goa, we are just starting. We need to learn from the mistakes of the west and try and prevent those here. Responsible tourism needs to be inculcated in domestic tourists especially. We have to find ways where we are not destroying something to build something new,” she added.
Earlier, citizens of Goa also collaborated and sent a letter to different Union Ministers and officials of the Union Environment Ministry appealing them to revoke the decision to cut down trees for the proposed developmental projects. They had also stated that along with the destruction of ecotourism opportunities in the area, it would also hamper local businesses and lives, and create a problem of waste management.