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Cyclone Ockhi: Goa’s beach tourism battered by rising water

Cyclone Ockhi: Goa’s beach tourism battered by rising water

PANAJI: Goa’s beach tourism was battered by the rising water from the sea due to cyclone Ockhi as shacks crumbled under its impact, while those left to stand were dismantled by their owners on Monday. With the high tides showing no signs of ebbing—another one is expected on Monday night that may rise up to 2.5 metres—the district collectors of both North and South Goa rushed to the state government with recommendations to declare it as a state disaster.

The recommendation is likely to be accepted by the state disaster management authority chaired by chief minister Manohar Parrikar and consisting of revenue minister Rohan Khaunte at its meeting on Tuesday.

The state’s 105-km long coastline is home to at least 350 authorised shacks on the beaches, while another 600 are located on private properties.

The worst affected have been Pernem and Bardez talukas that saw complete damage to 50 shacks.

“We are in the process of doing a detailed assessment of the financial losses suffered by the 50 shacks at Morjim, Mandrem, Arambol and Keri beaches and soil erosion at Anjuna and Baga beaches. Damages to the retaining wall at Coco beach at Nerul has also been reported,” North Goa collector Nila Mohanan told TOI.

The preliminary report from Salcete taluka shows damages worth Rs 30 lakh with 32 shacks having been impacted by the Ockhi effect.

“There is no reported damage to shacks in Mormugao taluka but retaining wall at Hollant is damaged. Also almost 60m of the floating jetty at Baina Beach has been washed away. It has been recommended to the government that it may be declared as a state disaster,” South Goa collector Anjali Sehrawat told TOI.

“No accidents or injuries were reported in the northern district as the talathis had instructed foreigners, tourists, locals as well as the fishermen in the coastal belt to avoid sea areas and beaches,” Mohanan said.

The shack owners body said at least 70-80% shacks have been affected.

“The tourism department issues permissions to us, but has shown hardly any concern for us. If the warnings were accompanied by details of the high tide and quick response team was put in place, it would have helped us,” said John Lobo, general secretary, shack operators’ welfare society (SOWS).

Strong winds caused some panic as stretches of the coastline wore a near deserted look during the peak tourist season.

Popular beaches such as Colva in south Goa and Baga-Calangute-Candolim in Bardez and Arambol and Mandrem in Pernem in north Goa, which register huge footfalls daily, had very few tourists.

“The life guards kept warning tourists to stay away from the water throughout the day due to rough sea conditions,” a source said. By evening, the wind speed accelerated and even blew away sand. “It was becoming difficult to walk on the beach and the life guards helped the tourists to safety by 4pm,” the source said.

Experts said it was a double whammy for beach tourism—the cyclonic storm Ockhi in the Arabian Sea and a full moon on Sunday. In Goa, a super moon episode had also flooded beaches in 2011.

“The powerful swell caused by the storm travelling from the region of deep depression to the shore and the higher range of tide during the full moon combined to push the water towards the shore and cause havoc,” Anthony Joseph, retired chief scientist of national institute of oceanography (NIO), said.
He said no deep depression as severe as this was witnessed in the past few years.

Shack operators reckon this is the worst disaster they can remember. “We have been in business for 40 years, but this is unlike anything I have seen in my life—worse than a tsunami,” said Lobo.

This article was first published on Times of India on 5th Dec 2017

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