Looking across the Mandovi river, the sister islands of Chorao and Divar are easily visible. As one drives down the Ponte Conde de Linhares, the islands get closer, separated only by the Mandovi. Both are just a short ferry ride away. Both these islands have a rich history and are well known to Goans all over the state. But what isn’t well-known is that just beyond the beautiful island of Divar, lies another tiny islet named Vanxim.
The islet of Vanxim
Vanxim or Vanusim as it is also known is very tiny and is surrounded by mangroves on every side. In the old days, it was only accessible by canoe. Now it is also accessible by ferry from Divar and there are, or used to be just 40 families living on the island. Their occupations usually tended towards farming or fishing. There is a small church on the island named the Church of Santo Cristo which was built sometime in 1879 AD. Vanxim also has a Chapel of the Miraculous Cross which is visited every year by people who come to make or fulfill vows. Both feasts are celebrated during the summer months of April and May respectively.
Another interesting thing that one notices while crossing from Naroa to Vanxim is the River Cross. This cross was constructed by the villagers in the memory of a doctor, Louis Cabral. Dr. Cabral is believed to have drowned at this site when his canoe capsized while he was on his way to see a patient on the islet.
Vanxim was also known as Capão in colonial times. This tiny islet has nothing in the way of modern amenities. There are no shops, schools or even medical facilities. Anyone needing any kind of provisions has to travel back to Divar or even the mainland to pick these up.
Vanxim is in danger of losing everything
While Vanxim is untouched, now this pretty little islet lies in danger of having its ecology completely destroyed. Some ten years ago, the Archdiocese of Goa facilitated a move by a private dealer to buy the islet. The dealer, in turn, sold the Vanxim to a wealthy property developer named Ozone Corporate. Ozone Corporate now plans to turn the entire islet into a luxury resort.
The locals are, of course, opposing this proposal. They do not trust the property developers to do all that they have allegedly promised. The developer is said to have put out a brochure that says the project will be an eco-tourism one. The resort promoters have promised to develop infrastructure for basic needs, generate employment and have also assured that existing homes have not been acquired and no one will be evacuated. But the locals do not believe them. They want proof that only the barren part of the islet will be utilized for this purpose.
This mistrust also possibly stems from the time when the Devaaya Resort came up in Divar. Sources say that locals sold their land with the assurance that a spice garden and ponds for fishing would be developed there to generate employment for the local people. But those property developers are said to have gone back on their word and nothing was done. Instead, only a few locals were given employment at the resort.
Divar is not visited by tourists all that much. It still remains a quiet and peaceful place, known just to a few. But in Vanxim’s case, it is not so, not after this land deal. As mentioned before, almost the entire islet is earmarked to be made into a luxury resort. This will surely take away all the peace and quiet that has existed on the islet for so many years. In spite of being told that they won’t have to evacuate the island and give up their homes, there is still a possibility of them losing everything that is dear to them.
Not all oppose this project. There are still residents that have said they would be alright with the resort being built. This is subject to receiving adequate compensation and basic infrastructure. The promoters are already said to be financially supporting a self-help group where women get training in making jute bags, tailoring, candle making and shell craft.
Information credit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanxim