BLACKMAIL: The big business houses are literally painting Goa black by importing large quantities of coal through MPT which has been challenged before the green tribunal

On the eve of the bye-election of the Panjim Assembly Constituency, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has demolished the ‘matoli’ of Goa, taking away the protection of the National Green Tribunal Bench in Pune, which was safe guarding the environment of the state

By Rajan Narayan

ON the eve of the birthday of Lord Ganesha which falls on August 25 this year, two days after the voting in the bye-elections to Panjim, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has destroyed the ‘matoli’ (canopy) which protects the most beloved God of Goa. The NGT in Pune was the last recourse for many Goans brave enough to take on big-money developers. However, unless the High Court can save it, Goans will now have to travel all the way to the Delhi NGT.

Lord Ganesh is considered the patron of the environment and nature lovers. Which is why in Konkan and Goa, which are among the hotspots of eco-diversity, Lord Ganesh in worshiped with a difference. It’s only in Goa and the Konkan (which should have been a part of Goa), that Lord Ganesh sits under a canopy of wild fruits, flowers, roots and other forest produce. The material for this ‘matoli’, which comprises up to 100 different species of fruits roots and herbs, is made possible because of the rich bio-diversity of the region. The source of this bio-diversity is the western ghats which have been recognised as a global bio-diversity hotspot by UNESCO and have been extended protection by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of the Government of India.

OMITTED: Interestingly the Ozone eco-park in the Vanxim Island belonging to the Santa
Monica Convent sold by the Church to a Bangalore developer has been excluded from the review of projects sanctioned by the State Investment Promotion Board. (Image above depicts proposed development at Vanxim)

The special status of being the greenest and the most bio-diverse state in the country is because of the efforts of eco-warriors  who have consistently fought against any attempts at undermining the ecology of Goa. Indeed the hugely successful Goa Bachao Abhiyan agitation, which resulted the scrapping of RP 2011, was due to the anxiety of Goans to preserver green Goa for future generations. If Goans have opposed the gifting of lakhs of square meters of land to the special economic zone (SEZ) and managed to get the SEZ scraped, it was to prevent the further pollution of the state.

It is for similar reasons that Goans have been vehemently opposing the conspiracy of MPT and the big business houses like the Adanis to increase the coal handling capacity at the port. Goans have consistently opposed any project which is a threat to the unique identity of Goa and its villages.

Goans have been able to fight to protect the environment of Goa to a large extent because of the helpful attitude of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The NGT was set up by the Supreme Court to exclusively hear and decide on the literally thousands of applications and petitions relating to the damage to the environment caused by the industry and developers. The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, divided the country into four parts and set up a bench of the NGT in each region so that those who wanted to preserve the ecology did not have to go all the way to Delhi to protect their green legacy.

There can be no doubt that Goa is part of the western region. At the most Goa can be considered part of the southern region because of its proximity to Karnataka. In fact many central organisations like Income tax and even telecom communities consider Goa part of the south for administrative purpose. The Supreme Court however rightly concluded that Goa was part of the western zone and under the Bench of the National Green Tribunal in Pune. This was very convenient for the eco-warriors of Goa as Pune was just an overnight bus ride away and they could attend the hearings of the NGT. Goa is among the few states in the country where individual or groups of eco-warriors have fought and won battles against the land sharks and developers who have tried to destroy the beauty of their village. Our readers are aware of the series we have been carrying on the successful battles of Goan eco-warriors written by Padmashree Norma Vaz.

Manohar Parrikar who has just contested the bye-elections to the Panjim Assembly is considered a superman who has degree from the Indian Institure of Technology. He was considered so competent and honest that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted that he should take up the job of Raksha Mantri of the country. Which he did so reluctantly as his heart was always in Goa. On several occasions Manohar Parrikar has agreed that Goa should be given special status by the Centre, like the North Eastern states, to protect its rich bio-diversity. But obviously Parrikar has changed and has succumbed to the pressure from the industrial and building lobby. Which is why he has shifted the jurisdiction of ecology cases relating to Goa from Pune to New Delhi. In a notification which was issued on Friday, August 18, the Central Government has reverted Goa to the status of a Union Territory. This is the obvious inference from the fact that the jurisdiction over cases relating to the environment in Goa has been shifted from the Pune Bench of the NGT for the western region to the national capital. Surely as brilliant a man as Manohar Parrikar is aware that Goa is part of the West and not North.

Clearly the decision to shift the cases pending before the regional NGT in Pune which had jurisdiction over Maharashtra and Goa is to make it difficult for the green warriors to fight the land sharks. Clearly the decision is been motivated by the desire to help the Adanis and the Rahejas and all the other destroyers of the environment against whom cases are pending before the NGT in Pune. It has been admitted that 40 per cent of the cases before the NGT are cases related to protection of the environment in Goa and include objections to the Mopa airport and Vani agro. The people of Goa had thought that Parrikar would use his considerable influence with the centre to set up a bench of the NGT in Goa so that the eco warriors of Goa could defeat the conspiracy of those who want to undermine the unique and distinct identity of Goa. Perhaps Parrikar thinks that he is going to lose the election and this is a way of taking revenge against Goans for not giving him a sixth term as a MLA of the Goa Legislative Assembly. Not surprisingly instead of withdrawing support to the BJP government led by Parrikar, his chief chamcha Vijai Sardesai has attacked the NGOs and the green warriors instead.   

COMPENSATION: While many Goans oppose Mopa, even amongst its supporters there
have been objections to the amount of compensation provided to those who lost their land because of the Mopa Airport

Friday, August 25, marks the birthday of the most loved god in the Hindu religion. Lord Ganesh is considered the remover of all obstacles, which is why lord Ganesh is worshiped before the beginning of any new venture. Whether it is a birth, or a marriage, or a business, the religious function always starts with an invocation to Lord Ganesh who is a favourite of all, particularly children, with his trunk, his pot belly, and his love for sweets. There is something very likable and jolly about Lord Ganesh. We don’t mean any offence by the comparison, but Lord Ganesh is like a Hindu version of Santa Claus. Though I do not believe in any organised religion, I have always been very fond of Lord Ganesh and had a collection of over 200 images of Ganesh in a range of material from silver to crystal to even jade, not to mention the pancha datu. A combination of five metals. When I fell ill and there were little hopes of surviving in the 90s I gave them all away. Needless to say when I got back safe but shrunk, nobody gave me back my beloved images of Ganesh. I still have almost a dozen images of Lord Ganesh. The most valued is a 200 year old Ganesh which was presented to me by a Catholic, Dr Peter Ronald D’Souza, who was the head of the Department of Political Science in the university.

We hope that starting this birthday, Lord Ganesha will remove all the obstacles in the way of the development of Panjim and Goa. I hope and pray to the remover of obstacles that when the results are announced Panjim will have a new MLA instead of the five term MLA Manohar Parrikar. This is because, as a Dr F.E Noronha  has pointed out in the magazine brought out by the Archdiocese, Renovação (Renewal), freedom, democracy and secularism are more important than corruption. He goes so far as to say, “Let the corrupt rule if they allow us to talk to eat and to be politically free. India is nobody’s backyard, it is one of the greatest nation in the world. Freedom is our birth right and we shall preserve it” capturing some of the frustration Goans are feeling.

Let us pray to Lord Ganesh the remover of obstacles to restore Goa and India to the path of freedom and tolerance. Let us pray to Lord Ganesh to restore India to a country where children are of more value than cows. Let us pray that the murder of children due to a cut in the oxygen supply, as it happened in Gorakhpur, is not dismissed as a minor incident by the president of the ruling party. Let us pray to Lord Ganesh for the safety of our sisters and mothers, and hope that no political leader will find excuses for the molestation of women as has happened in the recent episode of stalking of Varnika Kundu by the son of the president of the Haryana BJP. The young lady’s car was chased by the son of the state BJP president. Instead of showing outrage or taking stern action against the VIP son, the BJP’s state vice president Ramveer Bhatti, told CNN-News18, “The girl should not have gone out at 12 in the night. Why was she driving so late in the night? The atmosphere is not right. We need to take care of ourselves.” There have been similar insensitive comments by other saffron politicians including Haryana chief minister ML Khattar who once notoriously remarked “…if women want freedom, why don’t they just roam around naked? Freedom has to be limited”.

Since Lord Ganesh is a lover of nature, and particularly in Konkan and Goa, is seen under a canopy of wild vegetables and fruits, let us pray to Lord Ganesh to preserve green Goa. Let us pray to Lord Ganesh to save Goa from the land sharks and their agents like Vijai Sardesai and Babush Monserrate and all the ministers and MLAs who have been illegally grabbing Communidade land like Rajendra Arlekar and Dilip Parulekar. Let us pray that wiser counsel will prevail and that the law permitting the transfer of development rights (TDR)  is thrown out. The TDR law is an invitation to builders to convert the whole of Goa into a concrete jungle.

On this Ganesh Chaturthi let us pray that in our life time Panjim will have a garbage dump and a garbage treatment plant. That all the garbage collected from home to home is not thrown on the side of the road or all over the Campal Parade ground. That Panjim will become a smart city and will not remain a stinking city. Let us hope that the St Inez nallh will be cleaned up once and for all and will become as clean as the Ganga ideally should be. (Not as it is now, because the Ganga is as dirty as the St Inez nallah.) This is because all the star hotels and the malls and the huge buildings on the banks of the nallah dispose their waste into it. A lot of migrant labour have encroached on the nallah. Because some selfish people, including a supervisor in the municipality, are blocking the drainage water in Dempo Bhatt. Let us pray to Lord Ganesh that the Mayor of Panjim, Surendra Furtardo, is successful in cleaning the nallah and does not fall in to it like he did when he overloaded the weed cleaning machine.

Let us pray to Lord Ganesh that not just 20 buses, but all the buses of the KTC, are run on gobar gas or ethanol (which is a by-

OBJECTION: Goa’s green warriors objected to the golf course and seven star hotel coming up in Tiracol and have been fighting both, on the streets, and before the NGT in Pune

product when molasses are made). And let us pray that we have roads worthy of these buses otherwise out pot-holed wonders will soon reduce them to rattling boxes like our other buses. In Brazil all light motor vehicles function on a mixture of petrol and ethanol, with the latter, which is eco-friendly, accounting for 60 per cent of the market share. However, sooner than later, we should pray that Goa can switch to electric cars. Europe and the United States have already decided that manufacture of diesel and petrol vehicles will be stopped from 2025.

While leaders want to move Panjim into the future, it needs a leader who will also preserve and protect her matoli, unlike the current movement to destroy it by moving the NGT too far to be of any use to the locals. This is as senseless as a village elder moving a well away from the village instead of bringing it closer. — not caring if it means the village women have to walk twice as far!

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