My village transformed
Dr. Pradeep V. Kamat
Two-and-a half decades ago, when I relocated to Assagao to make a living, the village was sleepy, secluded, serene and silent. It was dusty, desolate and deserted. Without any essential services like landline, tap, and transport, it was a no man’s land. But it had its own charm. The land was pristine, palm fringed and peaceful.
Slowly and steadily Goa became a hotspot tourist destination. No one had marketed Goa at that time! Only Nature –the sun surf, sand, and fun, football, feni had been well marketed (and still is). At international travel marts abroad , Goa only sells good packages! At the most we have added garbage, and stray cattle tourism! Foreign tourists come to enjoy and experience this! Cattle and man walking side by side finding their way through the maze of vehicles, crossing roads where there is no cattle crossing –oops, Zebra crossing!
Assagao has undergone a sea change over these years. Much water has flown down Siolim Chapora river since I came over. There is now an influx of real estatewallahs, drug lords, land sharks, celebrities (having made second home in Goa), kith and kin of powerful babus and politicians from other states etc. Assagao has undergone a facelift through this high priced (from Rs 100/sq metre area earlier to 12000/sq metre) cosmetic surgery. Tourism has not spared this village - the thick areas of flora and fauna has been depleted at rapid pace over the years and replaced by concrete jungles. Gone are the days when I enjoyed the melodious, mellifluous sounds of Koel, the whistle of a Bul bul, the squawking parrots and chirping sparrows during my early morning walks. And that unmistakable mixed astringent, sweet smell of different flowers including chameli, parijatak and champa. Everything is missing. The ubiquitous crow population has also decreased.The commonly seen hoopoe, kingfisher, woodpecker are not sighted any more. Wild life has dwindled. (Frequently sighted mongoose, peacocks, porcupine, pythons, monitor lizards are conspicuous by their absence). With innumerable tube wells groundwater table is also affected.
Easy flow of money through drugs, illegal massage parlours, night clubs and casinos, dubious land deals… have eroded moral fabric among our youth. Now migrants are overflowing in our village to cater to the needs of rising affluent society and tourists. Without proper toilet facilities they defecate in open creating mess and adding to more garbage.
The story is true for every coastal village of Goa. Goa has highest per capita income (surpassing Delhi) is because of its rapid economic growth. The need for tourism growth and overall development is understandable. But can it be at the cost of degradation of moral values, environmental disaster and ecological damage?