Goa’s golden beaches turn murky as tar balls surface on seashore

The Goa government has vowed to give clean and safe beaches to the tourists visiting the coastal state and also to the people of Goa so they can enjoy the environment and cherish the memories. However, it is facing the menace of tar balls, which are back on Goa’s beaches deterring people from walking barefoot.

Tar balls — greasy blobs of thick weathered oil that wash ashore — have started surfacing on the state’s coastline. Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte has said that he has informed the shipping ministry and the Pollution Control Board says they have taken measures. However, Drishti Marine, Goa’s state-appointed professional lifeguard agency, has cautioned the beach visitors to be careful if walking barefoot on the seashore.

The annual tar ball phenomenon not only harms human beings, but also affects the marine life. A study conducted by the National Institute of Oceanography in 2013 had reported that the tar ball being carcinogenic, it affects marine life and tar ball pollution degrades the coastal waters off Goa. Thus this has become a concern about the environment and is affecting the traditional fish catching activities in the coastal state. Fish being a staple food of Goans, the fishermen have also raised an alarm.

The stakeholders from the tourism sector blame the authorities and hold Bombay High and ONGC responsible for spilling oil in the high seas, which results in the tar balls. However, the government says it doesn’t have conclusive evidence against ONGC.

“This spillage doesn’t take place directly from Goa or ships. Various departments are working together to keep a check and to have control over it. The Pollution Control Board has been given the mandate to act on this to support tourism,” Khaunte said.

Cruz Cardozo, President of the All Goa Shack Owners Welfare Association, said that the Coastal Regulation Zone, the Environment Department, the Pollution Control Board, Captain of Ports and Navy should monitor this.

“Most importantly, the authorities should check with ONGC. The oil spillage must be taking place from there itself. Our beaches are getting spoiled due to these tar balls and we are suffering,” he said,

Goa State Pollution Control Board chairman Mahesh Patil said that they are making every effort to ensure that the beaches of Goa remain clean.

“This has become an annual phenomenon for the last eight years or more. NIO was given a project to conduct a study. They (spillage-tar balls) don’t generate here, but likely at Bombay High,” Patil said.

“As per the NIO report, there are possibilities it generates from Bombay High, but we don’t have conclusive evidence,” he said.

The tar ball menace on the beaches peaked in 2011, with the state government directing the Indian Coast Guard to crackdown on ships dumping their ballast off Goa, but it had not yielded the anticipated results.

Tourism industry stakeholders in the state have repeatedly urged the Goa government to take up the matter with the central authorities in order to ensure a permanent solution to this menace on the beaches, which are a top draw as far as the tourism industry in the state is concerned.




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