Apart from its much-hyped beaches, Goa is a tourism destination where people come to get lost in nature and soak in some of the best vistas on offer. For those seeking a sense of adventure and wanderlust, Goa is the place to be, but this is somehow lost somewhere in the din of misplaced tourism priorities.
Last Sunday, I witnessed utter chaos at Bazar Vada junction in Collem, where tourists hop on to the jeeps that take them to Goa’s hotspot – the Dudhsagar waterfall – one of the most visited tourism wonders. This chaos was duly reported on Gomantak Times Digital (read Dudhsagar booking chaos sours Goa holiday dated October 23, 2023).
What one can gather from the chaos that is seen at Bazar Vada is that tourism here is all about completing the number of jeep trips allotted for the day. The entire day’s proceedings, if one sees minutely, are centred around the jeeps that operate under the Dudhsagar Tour Operators' Association.
The waterfall attraction has certainly created opportunities for the locals to earn their livelihood, but in the din of all these jeep rides, there is no sense of responsible tourism and no one is talking about it. Everyone is lost in the humdrum of earning a livelihood.
While it is beyond doubt that the Dudhsagar jeep trails are leaving a scar on the forest landscape and changing the animal behavioural pattern in the area, there is no sense of urgency to deal with this aspect. We think we own the forests and everything in them.
One of the best ways to ensure that there is less impact of vehicles on the forest ecology is to operate the jeep rides on alternate days and leave the trail free for trekking, an activity that is getting stepmotherly treatment.
I am sure the above suggestion will not go down well down with the jeep operators, but they will have to understand that the 90-minute ride both ways is denying trekkers an opportunity to enjoy the forest environs on foot.
Right now, the jeep trail and the trekking route are common, which means trekkers have to face the inconvenience of vehicles on their trail. The question being asked is why not open a well-defined trail for trekkers when there are many options? There have been complaints that the forest department too at times has denied permission to trekkers to walk to Dudhsagar.
There are around 85 nature or trekking guides in the area, but many of them have a stake in the jeep business directly or indirectly, so they too are not very keen on pursuing serious trekking in the area.
The only designated path for trekkers is open in the rainy season and the same is closed when the jeep rides start in October. Now, the question is why this designated trail is not kept open throughout the year so that trekkers can have their adventure. There have been no forthright answers to this question. The end result is no serious trekkers are coming to Goa to explore Dudhsagar.
It is a given fact that any form of nature excursion in a forest area has its side effects. Whether it is a jeep trail, cycling or trekking, all leave a trail of damage to the forest ecosystem. But without a doubt, we can say that any motorised activity in a forest area does more harm than non-motorised activity.
Tourism in a forest area has to conform to forest regulations, but that's not happening at Dudhsagar. Neither is the forest department very keen on promoting trekking and cycling in the area. For now, the jeep operators are having their way.