Goa: Empty beach shacks, cancelled chartered flights mark year By Rupesh Samant

Coronavirus cast a long shadowover tourism in Goa as the coastal state normally bustlingwith domestic and foreign tourists tried to cope with effectsof the pandemic.

Goa witnessed perhaps the worst tourist season withinternational chartered flights cancelled, beach shackswearing empty looks and local businesses like taxi and bikerentals, dependent on this industry, suffering a body blow.

The coronavirus-induced has cost the states tourismindustry Rs 1,000 crore in earnings, Goa Chamber of Commerceand Industry said.

A report by the state tourism department and a privateconsultancy firm said Goas tourism industry may have sufferedloss of between Rs 2,000 to Rs 7,200 crore and job losses inthe range of 35 per cent to 58 per cent due to the pandemic.

The annual Feast of St. Francis Xavier, a ceremonywhich used to attract thousands of people each year, wasorganised in a muted way in Old Goa in December, as publicgatherings were not allowed in view of the pandemic, which hasclaimed over 700 lives since March.

While people formed long queues in the morning outsidethe campus of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, measures were takento ensure there was no crowding at the place, and the eventwas telecast live online as well, said a priest.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus is the area where the relicsof the 16th century Spanish saint are preserved. A team fromthe Archaeological Survey of India is undertaking restorationwork on the four-century-old casket containing the remains ofSt Francis Xavier, church officials said.

Consumption of liquor in public was not allowed duringthe famous Goa Carnival float parades organised by the statetourism department in February, days before the countrywidelockdown was announced.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant spoke of huge job lossesdue to the pandemic situation.

The state government has offered 10,000 jobs in itsdepartments in early 2021.

In the recently-concluded zilla panchayat polls, BJPwon 19 of the 25 seats in North Goa and 14 of the 24 seats ofthe South Goa zilla panchayat, with election to one seat beingcountermanded following the death of a Congress candidate.

A candidate of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Partywon a zilla panchayat seat, boosting his partys bid to makespace for itself in the coastal state.

Three infrastructure projects – the expansion of arailway track and highway, and a new power line – came in forflak from residents believing they will harm Goas pristineforests and pollute its picturesque towns with coal dust.

The projects cut through the Mollem National Park andthe Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary, a biodiversity hotspot.

Projects involving widening of National Highway 4Aconnecting Goa and Karnataka and the double-tracking of arailway line from Mormugao to Karnataka are meant to carryincreased coal imports.

This years monsoon was the wettest since 1961 forGoa, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The state witnessed 412 cm rainfall from the southwest monsoons in 2020, which is 41 per cent higher than thenormal value of rainfall in the state. The highest seasonalrainfall previously recorded was 408 cm in 1961.

Following protests by students unions, Goa Universitypostponed the offline examination of final year students. Thiswas after students unions held protests demanding postponementof the examination and holding them online.

The 51st edition of the International Film Festival ofIndia (IFFI), scheduled to be held in Goa from November 20-28,was postponed to January next year and will be held in ahybrid format that will be both virtual and physical.

Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials saidthe decision was taken keeping in mind the COVID-19 situation.

The military standoff between India and China inLadakh this year led to Goa government considering dropping aChinese consultancy firm from its team building Rs 1,400 croreeight-lane bridge across the Zuari river in South Goa, therebydelaying the construction work.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court cleared the decksfor an international airport in Goa at Mopa, 43 km from statecapital Panaji, by lifting the suspension of environmentalclearance on its construction. The order came on a petitionfiled by environmentalists who had challenged the airportsconstruction, citing threat to green cover.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)