Goa: blue water, golden beaches and a fresh sea breeze is what most people think about, when India’s most famous state is being mentioned. Some people might also think of beach parties, cheap drinks and good food. All in all: Goa is a place to relax, to let loose from family pressure and give in on one’s desires.
Sadly, when coming to Goa these days, the harmonious picture has been changed to a frightening one: litter, water shortage and the loss of local culture are threatening the indian paradise.
As ecology is one of India Peace Centre’s main concerns, is has been decided to organise a peace education program on “responsible tourism” in the capital of Goa, Panjim, that took place from 18th to the 20th of February. With the purpose of gaining a diversified view on the problems Goan’s and the nature are facing, the participants were a group of 5 Indians as well as five Germans: including Leonie Kühl and Leona Moldenhauer, the India Peace Centre volunteers, Paula Haerle and Felicitas Stiegler, two volunteers from the Centre for Sustainable Development Nagpur and Fee Kristin Pottharst. From the Indian side, Kasta Dip, the director of IPC, Angelious Michael from JELC Orissa, Mona- Lisa Suna, Yugal Rayalu, retired professor of Nagpur university and Samarpita Kar have taken part.
The aim of the program has been to gain a deep understanding of how the development of tourism effects nature and what the problems are that Goan’s are facing after the tourist boom of the last years. All of this knowledge is going to be retained in a movie in form of a peace curriculum.
In order to gain an overview, the program started with the presentation of Goa field study by Ranjan Solomon and Anabel da Gama, human rights activists, who have been working on the topic of responsible tourism for a long time.
Both of them gave an insight on the problems that years of intensifying tourism have transformed Goa from a hippie destination for peace loving people, to a place of 5- star resorts and overcrowded beaches full of rubbish.
They were also focussing on the problems that one might not see as a direct consequence of mass tourism, such as the falloff of Goans occupied in agriculture, because locals have been shifting to the tourist industry.
After that, the participants met students of history, anthropology and science at the Parvatibai Chowgule College of Arts and Science in Madgaon. The German students and the Indian students had the possibility to exchange experience and opinions on tourism in Goa. The Indian students told the group, how they see a big problem in the way Goa is being marketed: “It’s boobs and booze. That is what the indian tourist expects from their stay in Goa. Neither the culture nor the relaxed laid back atmosphere is in the centre of attention anymore.”
The second day was well spent in North Goa, as the group had the possibility to meet Dona Sienna Fernandez in Baga, who gave the group an insight on the noise pollution she is facing every day caused by the beach parties. She told the group, that government regulations are not being followed and that loud music is playing the whole night through. She could also describe the change Goa made over the past years, as the tourist cottages were allowed to come closer to the beach every single year, displacing the Goans homes. Dona had been facing threats as well, as she is fighting the misbehaviour of local club owners, who mostly came from out of Goa.
After that, the group split and interviewed several people on Baga Beach, Morjim and Ashvem after having recorded the portrait of Dona for the peace curriculum.
In Morjim and Ashvem, the group was able to observe a lot of Russian tourists all over the place: signs were not written in Hindi or English, but in Kyrill, the Russian script. There was less crowd and there were a lot less indian tourists.
In the evening, the group went to Calangute beach and was confronted with a massively overcrowded beach. There were mostly Indian tourists. One was barely able to walk on the beachside, because of the massive amount of people. Relaxation- as it would normally be part of a beach holiday- was hardly possible, as there was loud music playing all over the place.
The next day, the group went to South Goa, as it is popular for the less crowded, pristine beaches of goa. In Cavelossim, the participamns got to meet Serafino Cota, who owns an eco friendly hotel. The group gained a lot of really helpful insight on water recycling, waste- management and a sustainable lifestyle. The whole place had been transformed into a little ecosystem, as the hotel staff are growing their own food, recycling their own water and reusing all kind of waste, that is being produced by the guests as well as produced by the hotel and it’s staff members. Serafino shared his story and explained to the group, that sustainable tourism is more likely to not be practiced, because it does not get any subventions from the government. Hotels engaged in eco- friendly methods are even more likely to pay more.
After that, the last stop was Palolem- beach, where the group was supposed to gain knowledge about less crowded beaches. But as soon as they arrived, they had to realize, that the overcrowd already began to start on that particular beach as well. Speedboats, a lot of stalls and of course- a lot of tourists.
Having analysed the case study of Goa, the participants are now occupied with the peace curriculum. The movie will be shared on India Peace Centre’s social media channels.
All in all the program was a huge success and gave India Peace Centre the opportunity to gain knowledge on a topic, that had not been addressed before. Therefore there will be the possibility to host such programs at India Peace Centre in the near future.