Goa is one of the most talked about holiday destinations all the year round but the fun and frolic definitely reaches an all time high in December when Christmas and New year celebrations pull people from all corners of Indian and the world to this beach destination. But what the party goers totally overlook amidst power packed dance and music session, is that somewhere along the same beaches are the rare and endangered olive ridley turtles, nesting and looking forward to bringing the next generation into the world in solitude and peace.
An advertising for a fashion event to be held in Goa’s Morjim Beach read recently,
“Two-days of power-packed music and dance… you can expect music blaring, heart pumping fashion shows and one hell of a good time… fire dancers, belly dancers, acrobats, and a lineup of international DJs and musicians are likely to light up the village.”
The advertisers as well as the party goers did not realise that what they defined as fun, was hell for the endangered Olive ridley turtles who come to the Morjim beach every year for nesting.
Safe sands…safe no more
Morjim Beach is located about 30 kms from Panaji in North Goa and along with Galgibagh Beach and Agonda Beach in Goa is a very important site for the conservation of the Olive Ridley Turtles. The beach is one among the natural choice for breeding of these turtles and several hatchlings can be seen during the nesting season from November to March, as they make their way from the nest to the sea.
Since the area is so sensitive there are many signboards that have been placed along the beach to warn beach goers and tourists about the hatchlings and protect them from getting trampled or disturbed by humans. Also touching the eggs or hatchlings is considered a very punishable offence.
But while the forest department of Goa has taken the pains to put the signs up, what they completely neglect is the parties and events organised on the beach, that disrupt the atmosphere and snatch the much needed serenity needed by the turtles during this crucial breeding time.
Loud music, bustling crowds, erection of temporary shacks, platforms around the beach are some of the activities the turtles have to constantly bear during any event or beach party. And with new year bashes, and Christmas parties, the situation only takes a turn for the worse for these helpless animals.
“If the event is happening on or near the beach at night with lights and sound, it will impact the arrival of Olive Ridley turtles,” Centre for Environment Education programme coordinator Sujeet Dongre said. “Turtles are distracted by high intensity lights,” she further added.
Earlier tourism department had planned to light up the morjim beach area to attract more tourists but after a local NGO petitions against the move, the plan was dropped.
But conservationists say that not all departments or government officials are fully aware of how terrible the situation might become if such activities are allowed near this hatchery. Once disturbed, the turtles might stop coming to the nesting site. Even if they do the chances of their hatchlings surviving amidst such unfavorable conditions becomes very low and for a species that is already endangered that itself is a severe blow to its survival on the planet.
The state’s turtle conservation programme was pioneered at Morjim beach in the late 1990s through a joint effort by forest department and some NGOs.
“Nestings have declined sharply over the years, may be due to trawl fishing or lighting on the beach. The matter is not studied much,” marine biologist Aaron Lobo said.
There were just three nestings at Morjim last season but this year so far, two turtles had already visited the beach in the last few weeks.
Let this Year be Different
The beaches of Morjim, Agonda and Galgibagh in Goa have been frequented by the small marine animals for centuries coming back each year to increase their brood in a peaceful manner. As the year 2011 ends and a new year begins you can choose to enjoy by dancing, partying and with blaring music on or you can choose to begin the new year by having fun in a manner that the turtles are spared from the agony of strong noises and light. While both kinds of celebrations will make you happy, the later choice will also ensure that another life form gets a chance to live, grow and enjoy the coming year.