IN THE LATE 1980S, as development in Goa was shifting into high gear, the state’s most famous artist, the cartoonist Mario Miranda, came up with a bleak but effective joke about the threats to local heritage and the environment. The cartoon appeared in a 1987 issue of the monthly magazine Goa Today. In the first panel, Miranda shows a painter setting up his easel in front of a Goan postcard landscape of coconut trees, a whitewashed church on a hilltop and a sailing boat. In the next panel, the painter bunks down under the stars. In the third, he awakes to find his beloved subject matter obliterated by urbanisation and industrial pollution. Miranda’s main message is about the rapidity of environmental deterioration. But he also suggests that the situation takes the Goan artist by total surprise. Programmed to be a pastoralist, he is suddenly bereft of material and unable to compute aesthetically. The cartoon not only captures the changing Goan landscape, but also hints at the changing consciousness of the Goan artist that goes, or ought to go, with it.
Social and environmental degradation resulting from development have been serious public issues in Goa since the mid 1970s. They first came up around the mining of iron ore and manganese, and later around the pollution from industrial estates such as Zuari Agro Chemicals (now Zuari Industries Limited) in Sancoale. Goa has since struggled, for the past 30 years especially, with the double-edged swords of industrialisation, mass tourism and real-estate development. An aggressive environmental movement has flowered in response, with the most belligerent confrontations including those against the construction of the Thapar-DuPont 6,6 Nylon plant in Querim, in the mid 1990s; against the Meta Strips scrap metal reprocessing plant in Sancoale, between 1999 and 2000; and against illegal mining, leading to the Shah Commission report on the subject in March 2012, which in turn led to a Supreme Court ban on all mining operations that October. The ban was recently lifted, but mining remains in the crosshairs.
In Konkani literature, writers have been dealing with these issues for decades. The most famous example is Pundalik Naik’s 1977 novel Acchev, translated as The Upheaval, about a village in Ponda taluk destroyed ecologically and socially by mining. Tiatr, the popular form of musical drama, has also addressed development’s fallout for some time. In 2009, the theatre practitioner and environmental activist Hartman de Souza’s Creatures of the Earth, a dance performance about the impact of open-cast mining on the Western Ghats, was staged in Pune and Goa, before it toured the country. In cartoons, Miranda and Alexyz, who currently draws for the Goa edition of the Times of India, have satirised corruption, overdevelopment, and the state’s social problems since the mid 1980s.