Vessel beached for nine years

Grounded ship ruins Goas prime beach, declared a disaster

Vessel beached for nine years

After dithering over the case for almost a decade, the government declared the M V River Princess a State disaster in April this year. And efforts have begun to regenerate the beach with technical help from the Central Power and Water Research Station, Pune, and the Central Water Commission.

For villagers from Candolim and small tourism stakeholders who depend on the beach shacks for a living, the new measures are welcome. But they hardly resolve the question of how and when the River Princess will be removed without leaving behind a trail of metal debris that would prove environmentally disastrous for the prime tourist beach.

Calangute MLA Agnelo Fernandes who launched the “River Princess Hatao Manch” when he was the local sarpanch has seen successive agents fail to deliver on the contract to refloat the vessel and little effort on the government’s part to penalise them or the Anil Salgaocar group, the company responsible for the vessel. Salgaocar, an iron ore exporter, is an independent MLA with connections in the BJP and Congress. Eight FIRs were lodged in the matter by the villagers, and the case is once again before the courts.

Fatigued by the long-drawn fight to see the rusting ship towed off the beach, Fernandes says villagers are so tired of the issue they might even agree to having the vessel cut up at the site, an alternative they had strongly opposed. “We are caught between the devil and the deep sea. We’ve been told breaking the ship here will leave debris behind that will take six years to clear up. Now, we feel the ship must go at all costs after this monsoon,” he says. Estimates are that the government could end up paying Rs 50 crore to have the eyesore removed, and the offender might just walk away.

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