Goa beaches head for makeover with shack policy

Goa beach File PhotoSoon, no ducking behind a sand dune or a coconut palm to change in or out of your swimwear. The Goa beach experience is about to undergo a dramatic change with the state government formulating a shack policy, complete with freshwater showers and toilets.

Much to the delight of tourists and frequent visitors to Goa, the state government is in the process of finalising a policy for shacks as well as water sports, apart from creating "practical" facilities on Goa's infrastructure-starved beaches.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said the beach shack policy should be ready in a couple of months. The policy would help bring some order to the frenzy that descends on Goa's beaches during the peak season from October to March.

"We are coming out with a good shack policy... I am speaking to the ministry as well as the stakeholders. It will be comprehensive," Parrikar told journalists during a chat.
The tourism ministry is also in readiness.

"The most important requirement is creating very practical facilities for tourists on the beaches. They come there, they need to change clothes when they go for a swim. We are trying to bring in changing rooms for them on the beaches," Tourism Minister Dileep Parulekar told IANS.

Giving details, he said the plan was to install "freshwater showers where those who have been for a swim can have a bath and get refreshed".

"There will also be other facilities like designated parking areas, toilets and high mast lights at night," the minister added.

According to Parulekar, the idea was to eliminate the element of chaos that typically greets the hundreds of thousands of tourists on Goa's beaches every year.

At present no beach in Goa has even basic facilities, forcing tourists to scamper for cover behind dunes, shacks, trees and any and every bit of cover on offer on the miles of sand.

The tourism ministry, he added, was also contemplating building a 50-metre watch tower on the popular and populous Baga beach in north Goa, 20 km from here, so that security personnel can help ward off trouble.

The comprehensive policy, which would cover the 300-plus licensed shacks, would also include water sports operations that have mushroomed along the beach belt.

Water sports operators offer activities like jet-ski rides, dolphin spotting, para-sailing, banana boat capers, with boats often encroaching into shallow areas and causing accidents by running into unaware swimmers bobbing in the waters.

"The policy will also demarcate specific areas for watersports operators, beyond which they will not be allowed to go. The areas will be marked by buoys," the chief minister said.

Goa's 105-km-long coastline attracts nearly 2.6 million tourists annually. While most of the tourists are domestic, nearly half a million are foreigners, mostly from Russia, England and Germany, who sun themselves on the state's tropical beaches to escape the harsh European winters.

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