Goa CM orders shifting of casino vessel parked near bird sanctuary

Panaji:Facing pressure from civil society groups, Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Saturday ordered the removal of a new offshore casino vessel parked near the state's only bird sanctuary. Civil society groups had threatened a day-long strike unless the casino was removed. "For the time being the casino vessel will be kept at Panaji along with four other casino vessels. I have asked the Captain of Ports to provide a mooring place for this casino," Parsekar told reporters on Saturday, after meeting a group of citizens from Panaji, who were protesting about the presence of the casino near the Dr. Salim Ali bird sanctuary, located on the banks of the Mandovi river. Civil society groups led by activists Aires Rodrigues and Kashinath Shetye had planned a day-long bandh at Ribandar village, located on the river bank opposite the sanctuary. While Shetye had filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal against the parking of the offshore casino near the sanctuary, Rodrigues on Saturday had complained to Goa Governor Mridula Sinha about the same. The opposition, as well as civil society groups in the past, have accused the BJP-led coalition government of going soft on the casino lobby over the last several years. There are currently five operational offshore casinos on the Mandovi river, off Panaji and more than a dozen onshore casinos housed in numerous five-star resorts in the coastal state.