Having been born, brought up and settled in Panaji, it is my right to write about the River Mandovi, but I’d rather consider it my privilege to be able to do so. I have several reasons to adore the river, which holds a pride of place on the map of Goa. And therefore, I wish to mince no words to say that we Goans have completely taken the river for granted. All over India, people treat rivers as Goddesses but for many of us River Mandovi is just another water body! Let’s have a look at how the River Mandovi is useful to Goa.
Perhaps, no other person or place has contributed to Goa’s good, as much as the ever enchanting river. About the said contribution, I will elaborate a little later. But, more significantly, the Mandovi has never been a nuisance, chiefly since it never floods, given the fact that is connected to the Arabian Sea.
Mandovi’s contribution to Goa’s economy is unparalled: It provides an inexpensive route for barges carrying the mineral ore, Goa’s lifeline. The Mandovi earns hefty revenue for Goa towards fees/tax from the floating Casino. It enables Goa’s No 1 (arguably) tourist attraction ie the river cruises which take the tourist from on a relaxing trip down the river to the. The Mandovi ‘harbours’ hundreds of fishing boats at Malim, thus supporting another one of Goa’s important business - and also a Goan’s staple meal, the fish. Mandovi also is a fuel saving and time saving transport route, thanks to the ferryboats. And mind you, all these services can continue as long as the sun and moon last, unlike the other exhaustible natural resources of Goa. The Mandovi also unwillingly acts as an outlet for so many types of garbage, sewage, etc, and yet it is never dirty.
Can any one tell of any other person or place in Goa more beneficial to Goa. Mandovi also gives us the most decent beach of Goa, the Miramar beach, and also the mini beach at Campal, which is the beach along the children’s park.
Very significantly, the Mandovi serves as a natural way of decongesting the Panaji city. Imagine if instead of Mandovi there was land. There would have been much more concretisation and virtually no leisure space. It adds serene beauty to Panaji. To experience the serenity you ought to take a stroll down the promenade from the children’s park right up to the new Pato Bridge. I work at Pato Plaza and the drive from Pato to Panaji is a visual treat, particularly at the descent from the Pato Bridge just after sunset. The sight of the river from the centre of the bridge is very soothing. You have to see it to believe it! A former chairman of Hindustan Lever Ltd told a friend of mine that he comes to Goa chiefly to have the pleasure of driving from the Dayanand Bandodkar road up to the NIO circle.
Two beautiful Churches on the riverbank, one at Verem and one at Brittona and of course the Old Goa campus, give the river a heavenly look.
And then the point where Mandovi meets the Arabian Sea is a treat to the eyes of the tourist, although we Goans are used to this view.
But now, the Mandovi seems to be under attack, and that too unfortunately from our own people. The powers that be want to unleash a string of casinos in the Mandovi, which they say are necessary for the economy. The money from casino licence fees is acceptable!
Have they thought about the traffic safety on the river, with barges, ferryboats, river-cruise boats and casino boats? God forbid, what if a ferryboat has to capsize with hundreds of people on board?
Already one casino is running in the river Mandovi, another has been brought in from the River Sal and is parked in the River Mandovi and last month another casino ship, the biggest one so far (quarter the size of the Junta House building in Panaji), has been brought in and parked between Betim and Panaji. As per press reports, a few more casinos are in the pipeline!
Morality (or anything left of it) has been the biggest casualty. Young boys will most certainly be attracted to gambling, drugs, wine and women. Let me give an example. About five years back, I had taken some guests from Mumbai, on their insistence, to a casino at Dona Paula. There I was shocked to see a young man from a good family gambling all by himself on a working day! Only compulsive gamblers gamble alone. So we already had a compulsive gambler. Five years later, today, times have changed for the worse in general, and therefore we need to do anything and everything possible to stem the rot .All Panjimites and Goans must, at least once, come out of the attitude “that’s not my problem”, and protect the River Mandovi. The number of casinos must be limited and kept off the river. Let’s not fail our river Mandovi.
I like a line quoted by an activist from an NGO: “They first sold Goa’s land, and now they are out to sell Goa’s waters”!