Amit Paranjape’s Blog

10 Ways In Which Kokan (Konkan) Has Changed Over The Past Two Decades

Posted in Travel by Amit Paranjape on December 6, 2009

A typical Kokan Coastline

  

 (Image Credit: Wikipedia)   

Recently, I got a couple of opportunities to travel to Kokan (I have no idea how the term ‘Konkan’ in English originated. I guess it was the British who started spelling it this way. Going by its Marathi pronunciation, it should be ‘Kokan’ and not ‘Konkan’). These were my first trips to Kokan after over 20 years! Needless to say, I noticed quite a few changes. This blog is an attempt to highlight some. Note I am focusing this on the Kokan region of Maharashtra, and not the entire Kokan region on the western coast of India.     

1.  Kokan Railway        

For a long time, the Kokan region was lagging behind rest of Maharashtra in growth and development. I think Kokan Railway was a seminal event in the transformation of Kokan, which is now well and truly underway. After many years of planning and discussions, this impressive civil engineering project was finally completed in 1998, with the first train being flagged off on the Republic Day. I have not yet travelled on this rail route, but hope to do so soon. Some of the bridges and tunnels on the Kokan Railway look quite spectacular.  The Kokan Railway website has some very useful information www.konkanrailway.com .    

Konkan Railway Bridge

  

 (Image Credits: Wikipedia)   

2.  Roads/ Bridges       

Quite a few new roads (state highways and national highways) and bridges have been built over the past 2 decades. (Though like every other infrastructure issue in India, a lot more still lot more needs to be done!). The Rajapur – Ratnagiri – Ganpatipule coastal state highway is a great example. Many big and small creek bridges have been constructed. Distances that took hours to cover now take minutes. If you look at the Kokan geography, there are many small creeks that separate villages and towns. In the past, a trip to a neighbouring town took a long time since there was a need to circumnavigate this water body. Not anymore. Ganpatipule to Ratnagiri time is down to less than 45 min from the previous nearly 2 hours.This coastal highway provides many stunning views of the Arabian Sea and really reminded me of the Pacific Coast Highway in California (just that the road quality has some room for improvement…).       

3.  Television and Communications        

During my last trip to Kokan in 1989, the satellite TV and Cable revolution had not yet happened. Hence TV coverage was very limited. Very few folks had those large dish antennas, required to receive INSAT transmission of Doordarshan. Now, thanks to Cable TV and Satellite Dishes – TV coverage is available in the remotest of the villages. Same is true with mobile telephones coverage.  One interesting, yet a little different example I can cite here is that of my car GPS navigation system. Was quite skeptical of using it in Ratnagiri and Kokan, but was amazed to see that it had a comprehensive database and turn by turn directions for Ratnagiri Roads and Points of Interest!       

4.  Tourism       

Though Kokan is no where near Goa in terms of tourist volume, the railway and better roads have helped substantially in improving the tourism. Many new hotels and resorts have come up. But still the quality and standard of most needs to improve. Ganpatipule has been transformed from a small coastal village and temple town, to a big tourist hub. Talking about modern tourism –  the famous Ganpati Temple at Ganpatipule has a prominent sign – www.ganpatipule.co.in This is a nice website with lot of good information.      

5. Development and maintenance of heritage structures and temples       

Most probably driven by cultural tourism, I noticed a big improvement in the upgradation of facilities and maintenance work done around heritage structures and temples. I visited a few that were over 1000 years old and were very well maintained.       

6.  Economy       

Once good infrastructure is in place, the economy is bound to improve.  This is clearly evident. Compared to the 1980s, the area looks much better off. Still, the economic activity and prosperity gap, is evident when you climb up from Kokan via Amba Ghat into the Sugarcane rich rural Western Maharashtra. Maybe Kokan would bridge that gap in the coming decade. I noticed a big increase in number of bank branches. Even the smallest towns had a prominent bank location – a clear sign of economic progress.      

7.  Urbanization       

I remember in 1979, how Ratnagiri looked like a village. That changed a bit when I next visited in 1989. However in my most recent trip – the changes have been drastic. Ratnagiri now increasingly looks like a small city, with 4 laned divided roads, large buildings, markets, factories, restaurants, hotels, etc. Chiplun has also become an industrial town.       

8.  Agriculture       

Cash crops are booming in Kokan, clearly led by Mangoes. I noticed a big increase in organized mango farming over 100s of acres of land.       

9.  Education       

Like elsewhere in rural Maharashtra, the spread of education in villages seemed quite prominent. In every small village we drove through, we saw a bunch of primary and secondary school kids en route to/from their schools. Similarly in urban and semi-urban areas, many colleges have also sprung up.       

10.  Industry       

Many new industries have come up in Kokan. Chiplun is becoming a chemical / pharma hub of Kokan.  While driving to Rajapur, we saw a massive new Tubes Plant that is coming up just 10 km south of Ratnagiri. The much debated Dabhol power plant is also now functional (though I am not sure if it is at 100% capacity). The small Mirai port near Ratnagiri is also undergoing big upgrades.

15 Responses

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  1. Yogesh Ramesh Sharma said, on December 6, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Liked your post!

    I have heard a lot about all these power projects & chemical-petro industries coming up in Konkan (sorry, Kokan ;)) which are feared to spoil the natural beauty of the region.

    I am all for these power projects considering Maharashtra needs power badly & Konkan projects will generate 32,000 MW power which could be used by the entire state of Maharashtra BUT I would be definitely sad to see Konkan beauty sacrificed for these projects😦

    I love Konkan, some of the best times of my life have been spent in this gorgeous strip of land.

    Aamhala growth sathi veej tar havich pan aamhala aamcha Kokan hi asach shaant aani sundar hava … am I expecting too much?

  2. Anil Paranjape said, on December 7, 2009 at 6:08 am

    @Yogesh, no you’re not expecting too much, since it can be done but the chances are you’ll be highly disappointed anyways.
    @Amit, good post.

  3. tulshi said, on December 7, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Nice post. I personally miss the white sand beaches which have now turned black-er in places because of the loss of the coral reefs (perhaps due to pollution?)

  4. Abhijit Athavale said, on December 7, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Nice post – Kokan was known for its poverty and it is nice to see it is making a transition …

  5. Unmesh Mayekar said, on December 7, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I grew up going to Ratnagiri (aajol) during summer vacations to a place called Peth Killa. We used to spend numerous hours playing on the rocky beach, observing the myriad of sea creatures left behind by the receding tides, watching fishermen haul their catch and work on their vessels. On a recent visit, I was dismayed to see the black polluted waters (locals claim because of pollutants from nearby factories). A similar story is being played out in the Dabhol creek with upstream chemical factories affecting sea life in the creek. Its time this region be brought under protection.

  6. Parag Dandekar said, on December 7, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I am happy that you could list 10 points about Kokan — all positives. Roads, railways, power and communications is the key to development. Power — the whole of Maharashtra is suffering. Hopefully new government will wake up and do some long term planning.
    It is great to know one of the regions of Maharashtra is on the way to prosperity.

  7. abhaymitaan said, on December 7, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Nice summary of the state of Ko(n)kan. Talking of infrastructure, you must be aware of how the recent cyclone Phyan wreaked havoc – a number of roads and houses simply vanished overnight. Damage to crops was also widespread. The affected people are, as usual, being made to run from pillar to post for getting a share of yet another elusive package from the government.
    Abhay (abhaymitaan.wordpress.com)

  8. uday said, on December 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    nice post amit.. it would be foolish to say that development is bad, but i miss the kokan of yesteryears.. there is now a hitherto unfelt commercial lining to happenings in kokan.. it is losing its simplicity and charm.. the new highways have bought cdonnectivity but laso attracted buiders form cities who have bought vast stretches along the highways..

  9. Vivek Tuljapurkar said, on December 7, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Amit – another great post. I have not been to Kokan since my childhood and your article made me want to make another trip.

    In my observation, people from Kokan are hardworking, honest, and generally quite talented. But many of them leave their native places due to lack of opportunities.

    Thanks Amit, and keep up the good work.

    Vivek

  10. seemantini said, on December 7, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Good post to start a discussion Amit. Its a pity that even with huge quantities of rain, kokan is starved for water all of April and May. Government apathy in pushing water conservation projects.The forest here is one of the last untouched forest with all the ecodiversity preserved and we have nothing other than the apathy of the kokani population to thank for this.So far I get the impression that kokan is developing like poor mans kerala. It would be nice to see a change here. I am optimistic.

  11. Nilesh Sane said, on December 8, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I had the good fortune of visiting Konkan in 2008 and a good samaritan took me to a beach which is a very closely guarded secret, at least according to him. The beach was more of a lagoon and had the best views I have seen till date. I recollect the massive waves, and it can be a perfect surfers paradise.
    During that stint I gave a “lift” to an individual who was waiting for the state transport bus and when I dropped him home he insisted that I visit his residence where I was offered a “tokri” of mangoes as a good will gesture. That has left a lasting impression on me.
    During my conversation with him, he mentioned that he prefers Konkan the way it is, underdeveloped. There was no electricity in his house and I was surprised when he said that development would ruin the sanctity of the region. I am not an expert on the development of districts, so won’t pass a comment on it, but the question which I ask myself is that if the people are happy the way they are, in nature, is it necessary to intrude on their rights to be left alone.

  12. Sameer Mahajan said, on December 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Nice posting Amit.

  13. APK said, on June 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I guess its “Konkan” in English, because the original Marathi Pronunciation was phonetically close to it, written as कोंकण in devanagari. Marathi spoken about 2-3 generations ago must have been significantly more nasal (To expoerience this, go to the older parts of Pune or Nashik — which are still 200 years behind current times :-)).

  14. […] 10 Ways In Which Kokan (Konkan) Has Changed Over The Past Two Decades « Amit Paranjape’s Blog.    […]

  15. intelshwets (@intelshwets) said, on May 23, 2012 at 8:41 am

    The only one time that I have been to Konkan was around 2003. And most of these changes that you have listed were already in place. It is great to see that they are keeping up the progress.
    The coastal highway deserves another mention here. It is by far the best highway I have been on! Of course I am yet to visit California…


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