Floating hotels will harm environment: Goa government

Panaji, July 11 (IANS) The Goa government has opposed two floating hotel projects being pushed by the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), a central government undertaking, claiming that the projects would cause "ecological and environmental" damage.

In an official statement issued Thursday, state Minister for Forests and Environment Alina Saldanha accused the MPT, which runs Goa's only major port, of being "colonial" in its mindset and asked it to stop using Goa's rivers as its "private fiefdom".

"It appears that MPT is only interested in revenue generation for itself and is not bothered about the ecological and environmental damage such projects may cause to the state or its people," Saldanha's strongly worded statement said, rejecting the project.

About a fortnight ago, MPT chairman P. Mara Pandiyan told reporters that the agency had received two proposals to set up floating hotels in the Zuari river, which flows alongside the Mormugao Port, 45 km from here.

"We have received two proposals to start floating hotels at the Mormugao port. As per the proposal received from some private parties, each floating hotel will roughly house 400 guests," Pandiyan said.

He said that the proposers of the floating hotel projects would be allowed to decide where they want to anchor the floating hotels in the Zuari river.

Goa's other major river, the Mandovi, already has six offshore casinos anchored in it.

Saldanha, however, claims that it was not the MPT's business to meddle with Goa's inland waterways and rivers and that the union ministry of ports agency should stick to its own jurisdiction.

"MPT continues to exercise the powers which were entrusted to it during the colonial period. MPT should not be allowed to treat the rivers and inland/coastal waters of Goa as its private fiefdom, leasing acres of water to various parties," she said.

Saldanha also criticized the MPT for signing two memoranda of understanding with private agencies to set up marinas in the Zuari river, despite the region being rich in biodiversity.

"The areas proposed for the marina projects are very rich in biodiversity but for MPT it is only an area of water which can be leased out for income generation regardless of the costs to people, their livelihood, the environment and ecology," she said.

This is not the first time that the Goa government has been at loggerheads with the MPT. Both parties have been engaged in sparring for decades over issues related to encroachment, land and seaward jurisdiction and pollution caused by the coal and iron ore handling operations of the port.

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