Goan Island Fights Land Grab

Unholy nexus between a church and a real estate developer threatens to make hundreds homeless in Goa. Devidas Gaonkar, a tribal personally affected by Goa’s illegal mining and other poorly planned development projects, brings us this video report from Vanxim – an island on Goa’s Mandovi River where the local church has sold off an entire island to a builder who wants to build a 5 star hotel on it.

The planned hotel project will leave 78 families that live on the island without a home, as well as cause serious environmental degradation to the whole island.

The story of the trade-off between the church and the builder is one that brings in light how the poor and the uneducated are cheated by the rich in the name of development. It also highlights a church that is supposed to an epitome of high ethics, actually acting out of greed, playing with the faith of people who believe in them.

The seventy eight families have been living on Vanxim Island for several generations. Ironically, they don’t own the land. The owner of the land is the lone church on the island where the locals worship. According to islanders, all the residents here registered their land in the name of the church as a token of reverence and faith.

But then, in 2006, the church sold off the entire island to a real estate developer who plans to build a hotel on the island with five star facilities. None of the islanders was aware of the deal.

Today they are fighting to save their homes which will be demolished if the hotel project takes off. The displacement will lead to economic loss, loss of their culture, as well as put at risk the future of their children.

Among the environmental threats on the island s the major concern over it’s limited clean water resources. The construction of the hotel will use all the available water and leave the island dry, fear the residents.

Devidas who, along with his other community members is also fighting against displacement and deprivation caused by development projects, says that the struggle of Vanxim islanders should be an eye opener for other small communities. Through this video he wants to alert those communities against a possible land grab effort in future.

To watch Devidas’ own personal video, and more of his videos on the problems within his community, click here.

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