Calangute beach finally gets a bin

Calangute beach got its first bin ever this Christmas-New Year season. Placed strategically at the bottom of the stairs at the main entrance to the beach, stakeholders say it is a sign that after years of passing-the-buck, the powers that be have finally awakened to the garbage crisis in the most visited beach tourist destination in the state.

Interestingly, in another first of sorts, leading resorts and hotels in Calangute recently donated five mini-trucks to the Calangute village panchayat to collect garbage.

The garbage problem on Calangute beach had been festering for years because of differences between the village panchayat and the tourism department.

The tourism department, which is supposed to clear the garbage generated by beach shacks, would appoint a contractor to remove the garbage. But in the absence of a site to dump the waste the contractor would be unable to clear the same. This meant shack operators would dump their waste in black plastic bags in the bushes on the sand dunes, in agricultural fields, and anywhere else they pleased.

As one shack operator confessed to STOI, "The reason why there's opposition to an elevated walkway for tourists over the sand dunes is because then everybody will see the garbage which is presently hidden among the bushes."

Starting this tourism season, the Calangute village panchayat, which used to only collect garbage from non-beach, internal areas of the village, has started collecting the garbage generated by beach shacks. This is after the tourism department agreed to pay the panchayat instead of the contractor. But sources reveal that the panchayat's dumping site, atop the Calangute hill, is an "illegal" one.

A visit to the site located on comunidade land shows garbage dumped in a huge area, about the size of at least five football fields, without being segregated into wet and dry wastes. The contractor has employed some rag-pickers who sort out the bottles, plastic and other recyclable wastes, while the rest is simply allowed to rot, posing a major health hazard.

Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, who has been repeatedly highlighting the garbage crisis in the village, has proposed a garbage treatment plant atop the Calangute plateau. Lobo returned this week from a five-day visit to Sri Lanka. "I spent five nights in Sri Lanka and I did not find a single piece of paper or plastic anywhere. We have natural beauty, but we're killing our natural beauty by dumping garbage everywhere. This way we'll reach a dead-end in tourism," he told STOI.

"We're sitting on a time-bomb. If we don't do anything, the bomb will explode and tourism will be dead in Goa," he warned, adding that the untreated waste dumped everywhere could cause diseases.

Since being elected last March, Lobo has been constantly pestering all concerned, especially tourism minister Dilip Parulekar, to take steps to clear the garbage from the beach. With garbage from the beach finally being cleared, Lobo has now turned his attention to the garbage dump atop the Calangute hill.

"All the shack owners, resort owners, shopkeepers, etc, are equally responsible for creating the garbage and it is our responsibility to go ahead collectively and see that a garbage treatment plant is set up," he stressed.

The garbage treatment plant, he feels, could handle waste from all the coastal Bardez villages such as Anjuna, Calangute, Candolim, etc. He feels the village panchayat needs to set up a garbage management committee.

"The panchayats can contribute 50% of the cost, the state government could give 20% and there are so many hoteliers who are all out to sponsor," he said. "Tourism is now a 365 days affair and the coastal village panchayats have to act. If we all wait for the state government to do something, then it will never happen." [TOI]