Tourism, development seen threatening Goa’s environment, lifestyle

PANAJI, India, Nov 30, 2006 (AFP) – The once low-budget tourist haven of Goa is facing a crisis, environmentalists say, as developers force up land prices and a tourism boom threatens the delicate coastal ecology. “As a result our forest cover, which was 34 percent in 2001 and projected to increase to 40 percent, has now shrunk to 31 percent,” she said.

– by Pratap Chakravarty Environmental groups in this former Portuguese enclave, which became part of India in 1961, have joined ranks in an effort to slow the building boom in sleepy towns and remote villages dotting the edge of Arabian Sea.

Taken aback by swelling protests against hotels and apartments sprouting across Goa, the local government has promised to retain the colonial-era character of India’s most popular holiday spot.

“As a starter, we are scrutinising all property acquired by foreigners and we have decided to ban overseas purchases of real estate here,” Goa’s Town and Country Planning Minister Atanasio Monserrate told AFP.

But environmentalists say unchecked building is a bigger problem and is angering local residents accustomed to a more sedate style of life.

“This issue is just a speck in the plunder of Goa,” said Dean D’Cruz