Panaji, July 16 (IANS) Casino gambling, drug trade, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and enclave tourism is de-Goanising the state and the need of the hour is to develop a theological response to tourism, according to a leading scholar attached to the Goa church.
In a research paper presented at a recent conclave organised by a Jesuit group, Fr. Victor Ferrao, dean at a Roman Catholic seminary that nurtures and trains young priests, also said that the Church is also faced with the challenge of addressing the mining imbroglio in Goa, where a ban on the mining industry, which once polluted rivers and forests with arsenic, had now caused large-scale unemployment in the state's interiors.
"The drug trade, the flesh trade, casino gambling, HIV infection, child abuse and alcohol abuse are already exposing the dark side of tourism in Goa. The enclave tourism that is showing its ugly face is de-Goanising Goa," said Ferrao in his paper at the seminar on "Challenge of being a Goan Christian".
Enclave tourism refers to development of tourism in hubs or ghettos which are distinct in characteristic, owing to the class, nationality and nature of visitors frequenting these areas.
A case in point Ferrao mentioned is that some of Goa's beaches were now being known by their Russian names. This was "reason enough to drive home the de-Goanising dimension of the kind of tourism that we are promoting".
Listing out the ill effects of tourism as one of the challenges before Christians in Goa, Ferrao said there was urgent need to develop a theological response to tourism before it swept the state and its people off their feet.
Goa, which was insulated from the Indian mainland for over 450 years after being colonised by the Portuguese, had "fired the imagination of our fellow Indians as an unspoiled virgin", Ferrao's paper said, adding that the Church has already taken initial steps in this direction.
"Therefore, the Church in Goa has a profound imperative to respond to the phenomenon of tourism in Goa. We can already see some steps initiated in this direction. The founding of the Centre for Responsible Tourism...(is) an important step in this direction," he said.
Speaking on the need to focus on the challenge presented to the church in Goa by the ban on mining, Ferrao said while the mining industry as a whole had caused massive environmental harm, the ban had also triggered unemployment in Goa's hinterland, which is pockmarked with mining leases.
"The excessive mining activities that led to the faulting of all regulating green laws led to the depletion of the forest cover and displaced wildlife. The Selaulim and Bicholim rivers have become polluted and are choked with silt of mining rejects. The rivers Mandovi and Zuari are said to be contaminated with arsenic. Mining has steadily made inroads into eco-sensitive zones like Goa's wildlife sanctuaries," Ferrao said, adding that the road ahead was tricky for the state's Roman Catholic church.
"The Shah Commission appointed by the central government exposed the illegal mining in Goa leading to the BJP government imposing a ban on mining which was upheld by the Supreme Court at the behest of an NGO, Goa Foundation. This has brought a great debate on mining as many mining-dependent people took to the streets. Within these complexities, the church has the responsibility to bring the light of faith in the context of mining in Goa," Ferrao further said.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)