Tourism Development Conflicts: Goa India


Goa is one of the states in the Indian Union. It had joined the Indian Union in 1961. The major source of revenues for the state during that period came from the “exports of iron and manganese” (Mescarenha et al 1997, p. 50). Its populace depended on fish and coconuts for their necessary nutritional needs. Milk and vegetable consumption among the locals was low and the state imported most of her dietary and consumer goods. The state had “coastal diversity that was rich and adequate natural resources, and had good living standards for her inhabitants” (Alvarez 1993, p. 260).

Goa state embraced the tourism industry as her key sector of development for the following reasons: raise income and create employment; and create non-manual jobs due to the increasing number of the educated labor force and limited industrial development. The tourism sector was embraced because the planners and decision-makers were scared of industrial pollution. They opted for the tourism industry as an alternative to generating revenue for the state over accelerated industrial development. However, there was less awareness and understanding about “life support system processes of the coastal environment and the interactive roles performed by each component among tourism development planners” (Alvarez 1993, p. 260).

Tourism is one of the major contributors to the economy of Goa. For instance:

The sector earns the state 13.7% of its net domestic product, covers 7% of the state’s employment, and 7% of the total tax revenues of Goa state. The state is endowed with good beaches and sunshine which offers her comparative environmental advantages. It also has a unique historical and cultural heritage. Goa utilizes a heterogeneous tourism development approach with upscale and affordable charter tourism to global and domestic tourists (Alvarez 1993, p. 260).

However, despite having placed this important strategy to tourism development, Goa is still dogged with tourism development conflicts. Goa state has witnessed haphazard growth of its coastal tourism which has led to the deterioration of biodiversity, reverse in fish harvests, siltation and reduction in groundwater, and erosion in sand dunes (Mescarenha 1990, p.4). The high influx of tourists to Goa has brought about unique challenges in terms of; “natural environment preservation and conservation, sustainable utilization of the state’s natural resources, and solid waste and sewerage disposal” (Wilson, D 1997, p. 53). Additionally, Goa state also finds it hard to articulate and enforce its tourism and implementation strategy. This is because the state has:

A mixture of customer rights which are more complex; problems of land ownership, and different tourism stakeholders with varied interests; and mal-functional institutional and political structure. Most of the land in Goa has historical importance, thus, causing frequent conflicts between the needs of the local residents and the needs of tourists (Roy 1988, p. 187).

Following this introduction, this report will analyze the social impacts of tourism development in Goa, conflicts in terms of resource utilization and institutional responses, environmental laws and mechanisms of regulation in the Goan state (The Navhind Times, 1997, p. 1).


In 1983, United Nations Commission on Environment and Development published a report, “Our Common Future”. India responded by enacting an Environment Protection Act in 1986 (India, Government of Goa 1987, p. 30). In 1991, the UN Agency notified the Indian coastal governments to formulate Coastal Zone Management Plans for their regions. The 1992 Rio summit, coupled with environmental norms of India, marked the beginning of land competition for coastal development irrespective of available legislations, regulations and conventions in place in Goa and other territories. Consequently, tourism developed in Goa under this backdrop. Tourism development also occurred due to the need to:

Increase foreign exchange earnings in addition to the state’s rich mining industry; and supplement the state’s declining food sector, regional imbalances, and seasonality of income and employment of Goans (Wilson, 1997, p. 1).

Local tourism development planners in Goan state do not always follow the guidelines and regulations despite the presence of regulatory mechanisms. Even in circumstances when they follow such guidelines and regulations, they have always breached them with abandon. In 1988, a publication of Goa’s Regional Development Plan was made by the Goan government. This anticipated the growth of tourism by 2001 AD (D’Souza et al 1988, p. 108). This development plan outlined a strategy which stated that:

Location of new beach resorts not only from point of view of land availability but also from the consideration of beach resource ecology based on the environmental assessment studies. Further, spreading thinly on all available sandy beaches stretches from Tlerekhol/Arambol in the north to Betul/Agonda in the south is not advisable from the standpoint of conservation of resources both natural and man-made. Instead, it suggests encouragement of beach-head developments at certain selected centers (D’Souza et al, 993, p.260).

However, this Regional Development Plan for Goa 2001 AD does not provide reference to them:

No development zone of 200/500 meters from the high-tide line along the seashores, nor does it mention the Environment Protection Act of 1986 of the government of India (India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, 1991, p.114).

Furthermore, a recommendation for tourism-related development for the almost whole length of the Goan coastline contained in the management plans, prepared in 1995 by the Department of Town and Country Planning of Goa, bars a few areas only, thereby, contradicting the department’s own guidelines. Current policies and relaxed enforcement regimes have resulted in poor and uncontrolled growth of Goan townships. For instance, Goan townships of Calangute and Candolim in Bardez and Colva in Salcete are over-commercialized and their development patterns are haphazard.


Planned tourism development in Goa, commenced in 1965 but more intense efforts started in 1982 when Goa Tourism Development Corporation was formed. Other than this exercise and attempts to have tourism master plans in 1982 and again in 2001, the policy has been essentially a reactive one. The government enacted a tourism policy for Goa in 2001 (India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, 1991, p.114). While this is more sensitive than earlier pronouncements to local concerns, it does not go far enough to address the concerns for sustainable and quality coastal tourism.

Tourism and development policies are usually discussed in terms of issues that are of national or state concern by policymakers. The kind of discussion they initiated is economic in nature with some industry orientation and focuses on some factors such as revenues from tourism, foreign exchange earnings, employment created and income generated (Kirloskar 1994, p. 5). Their focus has been on the implications of tourism development on the economy of Goa and on the relations among the various components of the tourism industry. Tourism is a diversely interactive activity and should, therefore, involve all other components. For instance, tourists who travel to and from their destinations, are accommodated, fed and entertained. This creates the extensive need for an infrastructural network for all these activities and support services that may not remain limited to the geographical positions of the tourist’s movement. Moreover, the impact results from the interactions among the tourists and the agents in the destination.

Tourism development has impacted heavily on the marine part of the coastal zone of Goa. The National Institute of Oceanography (1996) explains the loss of mangroves, the decline in fish catch and species, loss of spawning grounds, the introduction of anthropogenic materials, erosion, and siltation. Much of the Goan mangroves are being reclaimed. The loss of mangroves has had biological impacts as well as the potential of tidal water flooding in the surrounding coastal areas resulting in erosion and thus opening the estuarine banks to storm surges. Goa has witnessed a steady decline in total fish catch annually. For example:

The catch reduced from 105.44 thousand tones in 1993-94 to 101.9 in 1994-95 and in 1995-96, to 87.82 thousand tones. The steady decline is attributed to land reclamation of mangrove swamps, loss of spawning grounds and unscientific fishing practices (India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, 1991, p.114).

The foreign exchange earnings potential of the Goan tourism industry supports the national government of India, while the state government relies more on the industry’s contribution to local income. On average:

State earnings in foreign exchange for the last three years were US$43-57 million. Tourism in Goa is estimated to contribute around 13.7% of Net State Domestic Product, 7% of employment and 7% state tax revenues. The money spent by domestic and international tourists is received by different segments of the industry which provides support for goods and services (Wilson, 1997, p. 55).

Food and beverages are necessary commodities for the development tourism industry. It comprises the largest component of domestic tourists’ expenditure and the second-largest expenditure of international tourists. The development of the tourism sector has also increased the amount of local food supply in the tourism industry. This increase in the amount of food is a way of increasing the backward linkages from tourism, involving the local Goan community and therefore, moving toward more diversified and sustainable development. However, policymakers in Goa have not explored strengthening the economic link of tourism and the food and beverage industry. A study about the hotel food supply chain has not been fully researched in Goa. The goal state can also integrate into the hotel food chain, the local surplus supply from agriculture and fishing to boost local income. However, there is a need of striking the necessary balance between producing for tourists” consumption and ensuring the local community has a constant food supply at reasonable prices (Jagtap, 1993, p. 153).

The case study reveals a regional development imbalance in Goa between the coastal and the hinterland regions in terms of infrastructure and other indicators of economic development. Tourism development in Goa is centered in coastal stretches of Bardez, Salcete, Tiswadi and Marmagao. These areas are better developed compared to all the other areas in Goa. They account for approximately 66% of Goa’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) (Wilson, 1997, p. 2). Settlements within these four areas are dense and infrastructural support services are more developed. Historically, these regions developed faster due to their coastal location. They received easy access to sea trade and were attractive to settlements, thus, leading to marginalization of the hinterland which also has potential tourism attractive locations; little has been considered to develop them (Mescaranha, 1990, p. 4).


The development of tourism in Goa was accompanied by policy directions, in terms of private sector support and direct state involvement in the tourism industry. State involvement often caused conflicts with the local people who preferred to undertake tourism business on a small scale while the state preferred the establishment of large tourism complexes. This conflict was specifically acute in the Baga watershed through the 1970s and 1980s. The conflict got resolved in the policy space provided by the Coastal Regulatory Zone notification in 1991 that:

Prevented any new buildings within 500 meters of the coast, where the state planned to locate its tourism complexes. Coastal Regulation Zone notification may have been instrumental in pushing for more construction activity in the private sector (India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, 1991, p.114).

Opponents of the policy argue that since the zones have been at the national level, they have failed to take account of local level requirements and, hence, creating contradictions to what is intended and what occurs (India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, 1991, p.114).

Additionally, the development of beach resorts and guesthouses was encouraged by the tourism policy, while the Coastal Regulatory froze land up to a distance from the coast. Local government felts pressure when the local people are at the forefront of illegal constructions and violating laws. The hotel chains, with direct access to the central government and wanting to build as close as possible to the beach, are in conflict with local environmental groups. Many of these are only resolved in courts. In fact, increasingly, courts in Goa have been doing the work of the executive arm of government due to a lack of willingness and the ability on the part of the enforcers of the law (India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, 1991, p.114). Apart from poor enforcement of law due to low capability and sometimes unclear understanding, there is also an institutional dilemma at work here, when regulating authorities at the village level find themselves in the conflict between the need to implement rules on the one hand and responding to the needs of the local residents and groups, which they represent. In tourist villages, local people have been at the forefront of the demand for land conversions and are also instruments in selling land to the tourist industry. This has come about as locals have seen a role for themselves in appropriating the benefits of tourism (Roy 1988, p. 188).

As it evolved, the state’s tourism policy was ad hoc and often exploitative, and over time, it has given rise to serious resentment from local people and culture in its promotional aspects. It also concentrated only on promoting tourism without attention to resources, social and environmental, that provided the place for its beauty, charm, and attractiveness. Failure to be sensitive to the host populations has led to irritation and adversarial behavior, which, if not corrected, can result in a lower threshold of social acceptance of tourism. At the same time, the case study brings out a lack of attention to the cleanliness of beaches, water availability, and to ensuring quality tourism (Carter, 1988, p. 106)


The concentration of tourism along the coastal area of Goa has provided many benefits in form high-income earnings, raised employment levels, high living standards for the local communities, and increased state revenues. However, the state faces stiff challenges from socio-economic and environmental impacts associated with these benefits. These impacts include rapid growth of uncontrolled tourism; swings in employment and income most markedly in the small sector as a result of the seasonal nature of tourism; no clear policy nor firm policy relating to tourism. Most decisions made had been purely on an ad hoc basis except for a market predisposition to up-market tourism. The introduced policy initiatives are not sensitive to the local needs of the community. This has led to resentment among the local community towards tourists that need to be studied; there is heavy demand for resources due to a marked spatial concentration of tourism development along the coast. Incrementally, this results in the concentration and congestion of the population, leading to an enormous increase in the density of construction and related infrastructure and facilities. Consequently, Goa has recorded:

an overall decline in the agricultural sector; caused major changes in land utilization, use of scarce resources such as water and land, and destruction of coastal aquifers, the sand dune systems, and destruction of the mangrove vegetation; and loss of spawning and breeding grounds due to anthropogenic activities associated with tourism; ignorance of the principle of sustainability and the norms related to environmental and ecological conservation. The Goan coastal environment has been degraded as witnessed by concretization (Field 1995, p. 140).

There are so many impacts of tourism development in Goa, and therefore, this brings the need for further planning and development which will require information gaps to be filled. In particular, the following recommendations may be necessary to balance tourism and development needs and societal requirements: undertaking a careful study on the suitable type of tourism for Goa; recognizing tourism as a vulnerable industry, dependent on the industry stakeholders behavior; systematic study of the environmental impacts of tourism, perhaps making use of a life cycle analysis, and evaluation of the environment to allow integration into decision making; awareness and understanding of the processes that elevate the Goan coast as a preferred tourist destination than its hinterland; monitoring and management systems to entrench the effectiveness of coastal and environmental regulation. Sustainability markers must be developed to ensure effective adherence to these regulations. Such markers will allow both government and tourism industry to identify the emerging issues and to facilitate mitigation before problems become difficult to manage; integration of coastal environment and ecology principles into the tourism planning stage of any coastal activity, as a preventive measure rather than a remedial measure; an environmental impact assessment and research of the coastal stretches including estuaries and backwaters in Goa; and policies which recognize the type of links among tourists, local communities, and the environment, to ensure that Goan tourism to a sustainable development goal (Field 1995, p. 140).


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