The Goa tourism development corporation (GTDC) has leased out a stretch of 53,000 sq m on the shores of Vagator to two Delhi-based hospitality companies to run a ‘model tourism-entertainment zone’ for a period of 22 years. Amid protests from locals over the ‘privatization’ of the dark and desolate beach, GTDC is determined to go ahead with its mega project, that should be up and running when the tourism season of 2014 begins.
The GTDC land, which is adjacent to the beach but falls within the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) was leased through an open tender in 2012, an official said. No part of the beach itself will be privatized; locals and tourists can freely use the beach, which is government property, he added. TOI has learned that GTDC will be earning a revenue of Rs 70 lakh a year from its land, which has remained unutilized for the past 25 years.
“Vagator is presently a ‘dead beach’, shady and unsafe for tourists after sundown. GTDC has owned land there for 25 years, and has also received plenty of flak from the CAG for not putting it to good use. We have now allotted the land on leave and license to reputed firms in the hospitality and adventure tourism business to develop the beach as a premium tourism spot that will attract high-spenders,” said Sanjay Chodnekar, GM, GTDC. “We have obtained all required permissions from GCZMA and the local panchayat for this development project,” he added.
One stretch of around 22,500 sq m will be leased to Apra Motels to set up a large beach wedding venue, two restaurants and other entertainment infrastructure. The other company, which will develop land measuring around 30,000 sq m, has plans to set up a few beach shacks and residential huts, said sources.
“Both companies were chosen through open tenders and the agreement lists a number of conditions. No permanent structure will be built in the area, which will also be a no-plastic zone. The facilities will make use of solar energy, plant fruit-bearing trees, provide lights, seating, changing rooms and sustainable toilets for the visiting public,” the official explained. “GTDC is also creating a pathway and steps for tourists to access the beach area and also to support the local fishermen community,” added Chodnekar.
Local businessmen from Vagator are not convinced. “If they convert the beach into some fancy wedding venue, do you think they would allow people free access, or let fishermen or vendors use the area?” asked a local, who is part of the group opposing the development project.
Reacting to protests from several quarters, the official alleged that the only opposition was from parties who were running illegal businesses on GTDC land along Vagator beach. “The beach had become notorious for illegal activities-we have received complaints of groups of tourists loitering in the area, consuming alcohol and using drugs as the beach is very desolate. The development of the beach has caused heartburn among the people supporting these shady activities. GTDC will not hesitate to crackdown on elements using muscle power to illegally stop government work in the name of people’s opposition,” he emphasized.
On Monday, former deputy chief minister Dayanand Narvekar under the banner of his Goa Democratic Front (GDF) threatened to launch an agitation if the tourism department went ahead with its plans to ‘privatize’ Vagator beach. Over a decade ago, the Manohar Parrikar-led government had proposed to privatize Miramar beach. In view of the public outcry then, a one-man commission was set up headed by scientist Nandkumar Kamat who gave a report against privatization.
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