RIVER PRINCESS PART 2 by N. Fernandes, London

GOA,FEBRUARY 21 How do you manage to develop a blind spot for a ship—all 20,000 tonnes of rusting metal? Ask the Goa government.  For nearly four years, it has managed to do just that with River Princess. It is wedged in one of the world’s most popular stretches of white sand near Fort Aguada in north Goa.
From the bustling lobby of Taj Aguada where Preity Zinta is checking out, to the last sunbed on trendy Baga—the ship is a monstrous blot on the blue Arabian Sea, changing the topography of the beach. And the government has successfully managed to look the other way.
It happened one stormy night in the monsoon of 2000. The ship broke its anchor and drifted north, ripped its bottom over the rocks, damaged its hull and came to rest off Sinquerim beach. From then on the government has been standing eyeball to eyeball with its owner, Anil Salgaoncar, one of the three most influential names in the state. And he hasn’t backed off.
The issue? Money. The government says the owner wants to get the ship cut right there, so that he doesn’t have to pay the towing cost of Rs 7 crore, and sell the scrap for Rs 16 to 20 crore.
Salgaoncar says the government wants to invite the impossible task of towing it away so that they can make money from tenders to international agencies. The government has, meanwhile, made flamboyant promises, introduced a new law to move the ship, to own it, fought hundreds of hours in the brightly painted courthouses of Panjim with the owner’s lawyers and got a ruling to remove the ship nine months ago.
And the River Princess has not moved.
It could have been pulled out in 2000, say experts, but it is a tough job now. There may be no choice but to cut it up, with chances that it will kill the beach from anything between a year to 50 years (see box).
This is bad news for the Goa government which is patting itself on the back for bringing in two million tourists this year. What’s been damaged so far:
• The oil leak in 2000 ruined the beach for an entire season
It has altered the topography of the beach. The natural waves have been disrupted and a sand bank has built up leading to a steep dip near the ship, making swimming dangerous
• Several drownings reported of fishermen who have gone fishing for mussels stuck to the body of the ship
• If the ship breaks up on the beach: Lead, asbestos, arsenic will leach into the water
What caused the delay?
• Environment minister Atanasio Monserrate says over phone: ‘‘It is not an environment problem now. It’s a hotel problem. Please speak to the tourism minister.’’
• The man in charge of the ship’s fate has presence. Mickky Pacheco, 39, minister of Tourism and Captain of Ports, wears a classic goatee and drives around in a black Mercedes. He has businesses in the fashion industry, real estate, travel and tourism spread across Paris, NY, Florida and is being congratulated over a victory by a football club he owns.
He took over in June 2002 and promised to move the ship in a matter of days.
‘‘But the matter is in court.’’ He blames the earlier government. But he has had the go-ahead from the court since nine months to move the ship. He hasn’t even shortlisted the agency that will salvage the ship. ‘‘In a month there should be a plan. Before May we will move the ship.’’
20 September, 2010
Goas Clowns_PART 2......What about Govt responsibility?’
• Claude Alvares, director of the Goa Foundation, an environment-monitoring group: ‘‘If it is not moved soon then pieces of metal will get into the sand and it will take 50-60 years to clear it up.’’
• Sucheta Potnis, columnist: ‘‘The Centre needs to do something. They have been selling Goa as a premier beach destination, where is there responsibility? What about the environmentalists? Where is their PIL?’’
• Helmut Meckelberg, area director, Taj Goa: ‘‘There is tacit approval of a lot of agencies and collusion.’’
• Commander K.B.L. Bhatnagar, Coast Guard: ‘‘It does not fall within our purview to advise the govt.’’
• Chandran Mahadevan, head of Singapore’s Smit Salvage’s Commercial operations: "Three years after the wreck it’s too late to refloat the ship and the only alternative remains to cut it up.”
• Sunil Nair, partner of Soham International, a shipbroker: "It should be broken up and as soon as possible.” He announced on Wednesday in the Assembly that tenders would be floated in two-three days.
• Three years ago, Manohar Parrikar, an IIT product and said to be the most effective chief minister of Goa, made his tallest promise of moving it. Today, before rushing in for his Assembly session across the Mandovi river, he laughs at the idea that the ship is affecting tourism: ‘‘Not at all. I need more time to find the right agency...I am a metallurgist, I know. The sea has enough iron ore. It’s an eyesore and I even have a person offering to paint it. The shoreline is fine, it can wait beyond the monsoon.”
Is the government cowed by Salgaoncar? He shakes his head: ‘‘I keep meeting him."
• Anil Salgaoncar (62) is at the helm of an empire of real estate, shipping and mining. ‘‘The ship is very big. Under the garb of pollution, people are out to grab an opportunity to make money.’’ The only solution to River Princess, according to Salgaoncar, is to cut it up into big pieces, put it in a barge, build a pontoon to the shore and then take it away.
He is upset he’s reportedly stopped giving his annual donation to the Sangh Parivar. ‘‘I will sue them for damages.’’ Why did he not just move it in 2000? ‘‘First the bad weather, then the court battles. It became the imagination of the Goa government to be refloated and be towed away—an impossible task.”
What about the pollution? ‘‘Nothing. Steel cuttings sink into the sea. I need six months to cut it up.’’ Tourism? ‘‘It has become a tourist place. Everyone who comes to Goa, must see it.’’
‘We talk about it in England,’’ says Peter Hunter, a cabbie on an annual break. ‘‘I hope to see it next year.’’ And he will. At the time of going to press, the tender the tourism minister promised to float by Saturday had still not been floated. In Goa, the Carnival has begun


dlp said...

N. Fernandes.... Your superb writing and articles really keeps us glued to the screen to read them thru' the end. It's like reading a thriller that you cannot put down until you are finished with it. Thanks and keep them coming buddy.


Dear N. Fernandes, I have a humble request to you. Please send your articles directly on my email ID mentioned to the right in the contact and just in case you miss it here it is meninogptf@rediffmail.com because sometimes it makes me difficult to understand if it is a comment or an article. The other two I did put up but I was all nervous not knowing how you would react that I turned the comment into a article. Your articles are superb and perfect, I can say pin point perfect. Your articles can cause a great awakening among the Goans and above all they will be totally uncensored. - Menino de Valpoi

Anonymous said...

Remember, when the British ceded the British India raj most of the states were princely states. These royal families were paid by the Indian Raj for integrating their states with India until the constitutional ammendment in the 70's which, changed it all. Privy Purses were abolished and most Royal dies a dogs death. Indira Gandhi's Congress party was victorious.

We have the same conniving, shrewed and calculating party at the helm of things in the state of Goa. Kings and Queens, princes, princesses and royals, their chosen dogs are out of question. River Princess, is no different all will fall in place for her too. Things will all be sorted out when Anil Salgaonkar agrees to re-instate the Privy Purses to the 40 chors in da house.

diogofichardo said...

Goa being a dot in the world, if a book was written about the recipes of world for corruption and mismanagement of public affairs, The Goan book will definitely be a best seller. It's a shame with Morden technology we are still lacking behind in improving for the better. How many innocent deaths will it take to move this Princess of death? May be it needs a high profile person to lose a life there.

Dalia said...

Mathany Saldanha is missed in this article who came out with the slogan of "Either River Princess or me" one has to go away. Mathany went with no sign but River Princess is still on it's old spot. Political promises of our politicians are like contents of shit truck that keeps sucking shit from one place to the other and dumps it. The smell remains.

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