The state of Goa is endowed with a number of beautiful beaches that contribute to its scenic beauty. One that stands out and was once the go-to beach in Goa, highly prized for its healing waters and pristine silver sand, is Colva Beach.
Once a favourite with the tourists, the beach is now plagued with several chronic issues which have decreased the high-end tourist footfall on this beach.
Problems range from stray cattle to garbage and filth strewn on Colva Beach. The concerns that need sorting out, to bring back the beach’s past glory, are many.
Colva Beach is just 9 km away from Margao and was once preferred by domestic as well as international tourists. Fifty to sixty years ago, the then unspoiled beach was undisturbed by crowds.
It was usually the locals and a few high-end tourists who would visit, mostly in the summer months, to relax from the year’s stress and seek refuge from the heat.
Goans would come for respite from ailments such as arthritis, which they believed would be eased by the seawater. In fact, you will still find Goans doing this despite the sorry state of the beach.
Later, the hippy culture mushroomed in Goa and the beach began to attract ragtag tourists, albeit more of them. This proved an incentive for the locals to set up hotels, stalls and other commercial activities, and the rest is history.
When Gomantak Times attempted to ferret out where things had decidedly gone wrong for the beach. We learnt of multiple issues affecting the popularity of the beach and the earnings of local stakeholders dependent on beach tourism.
A local, on the condition of anonymity, informed us, saying, "The main reason why many tourists do not visit Colva Beach is due to harassment by the traffic police. Traffic police stay by the roadsides and impose heavy penalties on the tourists.”
He further pointed out that when tourists visit a bar and restaurant with rented bikes or four-wheelers, the traffic police check them with alcometers and further impose fines.
“Why would the locals visit the beach if these sorts of things are happening?” the local questioned.
Suman Dobriyal, a tourist from Himachal Pradesh who had come to Colva Beach to enjoy her weekend vacation, said that Goa for domestic tourists is very costly. The touts at Colva Beach try to deceive tourists and charge extra money.
“There has to be some system in place. If the tourists are cheated by touts, then not many tourists will turn up here, and would prefer other tourist destinations," said Suman.
Clinton Rodrigues, a taxi operator from Colva, said that the beach is not clean, and the visitors at this beach tend to litter the place. There is no maintenance of the public infrastructure and, therefore, very few tourists come to Colva Beach.
Joel Fernandes, another taxi driver from Colva, said, “We see tourists mostly on Sunday. On other days, there are hardly any tourists. If Colva beach wants to attract more tourists then there has to be cleanliness on the beach. Touts, etc should not be allowed to operate. CCTV cameras, beautification of the Colva circle, etc need to be done."
Shack and hotel owners at Colva are also not very happy with the low tourist footfall at the beach.
It is the conjecture of Rajendar Dey, the manager of Ocean beach shack, that high-end tourists are not frequenting South Goa beaches such as Colva mainly because of the opening of the Mopa international airport for flights. Tourists tend to restrict themselves to North Goa beaches.
Another shack owner named Dominique from Colva said that a major chunk of tourists who visit Colva Beach these days are domestic tourists. These, however, do not patronise the shacks on the beach.
Instead, the majority buy liquor from wholesale stores and drink themselves into a stupor.
He also pointed out, “Ever since the Mopa international airport has become operational, our businesses have suffered in South Goa. The majority of high-end tourists have been visiting and spending money in North Goa and travelling via Mopa airport since the last few months.”
A visit to Colva Beach revealed that the seating area just at the starting point of Colva Beach is dirty due to the faecal remains of birds. The CCTV cameras near Colva Circle are non-functional and few have been stolen.
The water fountain near the circle is in bad shape and is bound to evoke disgust from visitors. Migrants and stray dogs and cattle have become commonplace on Colva Beach. Littering of garbage is another problem that is affecting the frequency of visitors.
Regarding these issues, Suzie Fernandes, the sarpanch of Colva panchayat, said, "I have written to the Department of Tourism to include the Silver Sands Beach Resort area near Colva Beach in a tender for cleaning. It is in the process.”
She further said that the area from the point that the sand begins will be cleaned by the Department of Tourism and not panchayat.
“The tourism department labourers clean the beach, and they should see that the beach remains clean,” she added.
When questioned about the sorry state of Colva Circle, the Colva sarpanch informed us that the Department of Tourism will engage in the beautification of the Colva Circle area, shortly.
Commenting on the stray cattle and dogs issue, she said that the panchayat is finding it difficult to impound these stray cattle and keep them in the cattle pound since the panchayat does not have land to build a cattle pound shed.
Meanwhile, Benaulim MLA Venzy Viegas opined that gradually some positive development in Colva will happen.
He said, “After I was elected, the first thing I did was to clean the Colva Creek, which was polluted badly. Those who were directly releasing used, dirty water into this creek also started hiring trucks to take away their sewage.”
“We are trying to change the mindset of the people and to make a positive change which will not happen overnight, but gradually," he added.
Furthermore, MLA informed that he has put up a proposal before the authorities concerned for the monthly maintenance of this creek. The restaurant owners operating near the creek will get the Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) connection by the end of April.
Commenting on the beautification of the Colva Beach area, Viegas said that in the beach cleaning contract, some areas, where the beach starts (approach roads), have been included to be cleaned.
These were not going to be cleaned by the panchayat. Illumination of Colva Circle and the beach area will be done. There would also be additional police patrols at the beach.
He further revealed that the dates of the Spirit of Goa event have been changed to April 20-22, considering the final exams of school students. The event’s funds will pay for at least 10 per cent of the cleanup of Colva.
"I want that Goan youth should stay in Goa and do business. For this I want Goa to have a business-friendly atmosphere wherein Goans can work here and benefit," Viegas added.