'Don't reopen Goa casinos until water dispute resolved'

Don't restart Goa casinos until Mahadayi issue resolved: Youth Congress

Casinos -- both onshore and offshore -- in Goa should not be allowed to restart, until the Goa government finds a "sustainable solution" to the ongoing Mahadayi inter-state water dispute between Karnataka and Goa, the Youth Congress in Goa on Friday demanded.

In a memorandum of demands submitted to Goa Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Youth Congress president Varad Mardolkar also said that the state's six offshore casinos are parked in the Mandovi river (Mahadayi is also referred to as Mhadei or Mandovi in Goa), whose water levels may decrease on account of the alleged diversion carried out by the Karnataka government via the Kalasa-Banduri canal, and cause further degradation of the river. 

"To protect our 'Mother Mahadayi' from further degradation, casinos should not be allowed to re-open in the Mandovi river, till any sustainable solution is found for the Mahadayi crisis," Mardolkar said. 

The demand to not re-open Goa's casinos comes two days after Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that the casino industry in the state could restart from November 1 with 50 per cent capacity.  The announcement comes at a time when the state government is trying to generate tourism-related traction in the coastal state. 

There are currently six offshore casinos anchored in the Mandovi river and around 10 onshore casinos operating in the state. Mardolkar however has alleged that restarting offshore casinos would cause further environmental degradation of the Mahadayi river. 

"Through the Kalasa-Banduri projects, the Karnataka government has diverted the Mandovi river water excessively and completely changed the natural flow of the Mandovi river from its original basin... If casinos are allowed to restart in the Mandovi river, pollution will increase tremendously and it will be of serious nature due to low-levels in the Mandovi river this year. The increase in pollution will adversely affect ecology and marine life," Mardolar also said. 

Goa and Karnataka are battling out a two-decade-long dispute over the sharing of the Mahadayi river in the Supreme Court after both parties expressed reservations about the award by the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal in 2018.

Maharashtra is the third state which is a part of the dispute, as the river traverses through a small portion of Maharashtra. Goa has also opposed the diversion of water from the Mahadayi river basin through the Kalasa-Banduri project claiming it would cause “ecological devastation” in Goa.