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Despite having a coastline that extends over 4,300 miles, India doesn't attract nearly as many visitors to its beautiful beaches as to its temples and palaces. Perhaps that explains why those beaches are so neglected: According to a report by the Asian Development Bank, about 25 percent of India's coastline faces "serious erosion" caused by everything from rising sea levels to the removal of sand dunes to the construction of hundreds of new harbors.
Goa, the former Portuguese colony turned hippie enclave turned chic resort destination, may be where the problem is most visible: The state's entire 63-mile coastline is eroded, and some beaches have lost as much as 65 feet of landmass in recent years. Matanhy Saldana, a social activist and former Goa tourism minister, points to multiple causes, including the construction of a massive naval port and the destruction of vegetation along the shore. At popular Candolim beach (pictured), a ship abandoned after it ran aground in June 2000 is acting as a giant jetty, pulling sand away from the shore. The state recently appealed to the national government for help funding anti-erosion projects, but Goan activists contend that development is taking precedence over ecological matters. "As long as greed prevails and governments and the public don't consider that the environment cannot [be] tampered with, there will be no solution," says Saldana.
If you go: Many of Goa's great beaches, including Velsao, Cansaulim, Utorda, and Miramar, are unaffected by erosion. The brother-and-sister owners of the charming Vivenda dos Palhaços guesthouse in Majorda, South Goa, will help steer you to the highlights.