There is a divide amongst activists and environmentalists on whether Regional Plan 2021 should be scrapped. Goan Observer brings you expert views from both sides…
The Regional Plan under the TCP Act (1974) is made of two parts, policy and land use maps. Goa’s first Regional Plan 2001 was completed roughly in 1987. The next RP2011 was notified late in 2005-6, and differed so radically from the draft that the resultant uprising under Goa Bachao Abhiyan got it scrapped. The demand was for a new plan with peoples participation as mandated by the 73rd and 74th amendment to the Constitution, a visionary move by the Union Government in 1992 that recognized the involvement of people in planning.
Preparation of the RP2021 took more than three years, building policy on multiple representations. In a first, questionnaires were sent to villages for ward level participation and base maps supplied at a scale where Survey Numbers could be read. Base maps of the Draft RP2021 comprised of settlement markings of which 80% was from the old RP2001, other layers being gazetted land use changes, official data supplied by departments and satellite imagery. The RP2021 introduced lower built up areas in villages of lower census and is the reason why building mass in villages like Assagao and Parra are not such eye-sores as Candolim and Calangute. A policy for eco-zones with introduction of Natural Cover correlated to maps detailed out to village level.
Crucially, in 2009 a bill was notified for inclusion of peoples participation in planning into the TCP Act as per the 73rd & 74th Amendment to the Constitution, yet was allowed to lapse. Without this, critical legal framework for peoples participation in planning remains absent, leaving no checks and balances in our corruption ridden society. The RP2021 notified between 2011-12 had policy and maps, yet no legal basis for peoples involvement in planning, as the TCP Act remained unchanged. Political intent behind this became clear with new introductions of Eco Tourism Zones, arbitrary roads and Micro Industrial Zones amongst other insertions which took people by surprise. The resultant outcry forced a rectification process which stopped partway due to elections.
Realizing the complexity of dealing with a new RP, the BJP government kept the RP2021 in abeyance, rather, would use the eco zones and lower FAR policies of the RP2021 while acting only on common overlapping settlement areas with the old RP2001. They stopped the rectification process, but kept the plan open for suggestions and objections again, without a framework or guidelines. Of thousands of inputs received, most were for conversion of land to settlement.
Meanwhile a slew of Acts and notifications have sidestepped the Regional Plan rendering it ineffective. Modification of Section 16&16A of the TCP Act allows undefined projects in public interest, 20% extra purchasable FAR passed surreptitiously under the budget session has no reference to the RP, the IPB Act allows itself to supersede not only the RP but all other Acts, PDAs arbitrarily carve out villages from the RP, construction by-laws overcrowd small roads, and regularization of unauthorized structures cast aside any semblance of governance and planning. The critical amendment to the TCP Act for peoples participation is still the elephant in the room that no one seems to address.
Today we have an RP that never completed the process of rectifications, is diminished by contradicting Acts, with still no inclusion of peoples participation in its legal framework. Riddled with holes as it is, it is still a map than can be read without data hidden in Government files, its scale allowing for clear lines of argument. It is a known devil, but comes in a form that can be easily read and corrected at village level, which must happen.
Semantics of mass movements such as ‘scrap’ do not consider nuances of law and can lead to unwanted results. In reality we can revert back to the 30 year old RP2001 map and policy. Few people know that the RP2001 comes in Taluka form where a village is all of 8 square inches, with settlement marked like blotted ink. This ink blot of settlement is where 1 millimeter represents 100 meters on the ground, open interpretation leaving us at the mercy of Town Planners. We may also get a new TCP approved RP2031 which includes thousands of suggestions for conversion to settlement invited earlier. It is being prepared as we argue. Options present worse situations than present.
The RP continues to be used as target practice, settling political scores before elections and sweeping real issues under the carpet. The RP 2021 has been to the villages and taken a lot of effort to construct, yet is subject to corruption in a reflection of the society it serves. Who will guarantee that scrapping will solve corruption and the next RP is not worse? Only legal basis can, and devolution of powers to the people.
We need urgent amendments to the TCP Act and the Municipalities Act to build a Regional Plan that is done with the new norms of environment protection, and peoples participation at ground level. PDAs in their present form would cease to exist if the 74th Amendment to the Constitution was included in our state Acts, and we the people would have true planning powers if the 73rd Amendment to the constitution was included in the TCP Act of Goa. No new plan should be made without this.
Scrapping has happened before, it can definitely happen again, but without the basic laws to ensure people at the center of any new exercise, it is going to be a lost cause.
(Reboni Saha is Secretary, Goa Bachao Abhiyan and an avid environmentalist)
A regional plan is devised for a State to ensure proper use of the available land, ensuring that a proper balance is maintained with respect to the needs and aspirations of the people and the ecology. To understand the genesis of the present day problem, one needs to go back to 2006-07 when the people revolted against Regional Plan 2011 with which green Goa would have turned red.
As rightly put across by the Task Force RP 2021 set up by the then Digambar Kamat government in Goa in Oct 2007, the objective was “to ensure that the plan does not endanger the fragile eco-systems that make Goa what it is — the forests, the mangroves, the paddy fields, beaches and villages”. The Task Force resolved that the above objective could be best done in open and honest collaboration with the people of Goa. The then Task Force met various agencies, both public and government, civil rights groups, NGOs, research organisations, etc to understand the critical issues that come in the way of the common people. Some of the main issues that emerged were:
(a) Lack of transparency.
(b) immense pressure on the limited land resources, fuelled more by speculation.
(c) the tendency of farmers to convert agricultural land into real estate which indicated that agricultural returns were not satisfactory.
(d) The need to upgrade amenities, viz. Public transport, sanitation, health, education, etc.
(e) Unemployment, coupled with the fact that the new jobs created are not given to the local youth because they are not sufficiently qualified.
(f) Migration of people from other states and taking up jobs meant for the local youth.
The broad based Regional Plan 2021 for Goa with the aim to create a “more vibrant and prosperous Goa” was finally notified by the government of Goa on Oct 16, 2008, and the public were invited to offer comments on the same within a stipulated time frame of 90 days.
A large number of objections running into thousands were submitted by the people spread across 176 villages, which indicated that there were gross irregularities in the plan. However, it is pertinent to note that one of the main reasons for the delay in finalising the plan was because of the non-submission of additional data by several departments: Agriculture, Public Works, Forest, Water Resources, Revenue and Land Survey. (Admitted by the state level committee.)
The contentious issue of the RP 2021 featured prominently in the 2012 Assembly elections. The new government headed by Shri Manohar Parrikar had promised to scrap RP 2021 within 100 days of coming to power, but alas, wily politician that he is, Parrikar placed the plan in abeyance instead of scrapping it. Activists, along with some political parties, and most notably Vijai Sardesai, attack
ed Parrikar for going back on his word and termed it yet another case of ‘U-Turn’ Parrikar.
Post the election results of March 2017, the fiercest of political enemies made strange bedfellows, with Parrikar at the helm and Vijai taking over as TCP minister. A year down the line, with Parrikar indisposed, and the government stating that no important decision can be taken without the consent of the CM, the entire state of Goa was astonished to learn from the newspapers that the government had notified RP 2021 on Mar 28, 2018. One wondered how the same could be notified when the CM was out of station. Could it have been back-dated? Just speculating.
Our team, ever alert and battle ready, scanned through the RP 2021 and were shocked to see that lakhs and lakhs of square metres of orchard land, agricultural land, hilly terrain, communidade land, areas along the coast falling under CRZ, forest land, etc were shown under settlement zone. This gross violation and deemed manipulation can have disastrous effect on the ecology of the state and the livelihoods of the Goan people, leading to the fragmentation of the society.
Whom will this plan benefit? Goans? Of course not. Large settlement zones in strategically located areas will lead to demographic realignment that can lead to tension among the Goans and settlers. With over 1,00,000 flats ready and available for purchase, mostly built by real estate companies based outside Goa, and prices at an all time high, one wonders who the intended purchasers will be. The pertinent point to note is that there is no local demand for these flats/dwellings, then why convert orchards, fields, forests, hills into settlement zones? Who are the intended beneficiaries? Does it point to a builder-industry-politician nexus?
Official government documents indicate large areas falling under agriculture/forests/orchard/etc, held by elected representatives and politicians cutting across political lines, (including some joint ownership), are now being reflected as falling under settlement zones. This raises grave doubts on the very authenticity of the RP 2021.
It will be in the larger interests of the TCP minister and the government at large to come clean on the sudden notification of RP 2021. The immediate scrapping of the plan will not only restore the credibility of the government, badly fallen in the eyes of the people, the main stakeholders, but also help it start afresh in preparing a good, balanced Regional Plan 2031 with active participation of the people. Until then, the green zones earmarked in RP 2001 and RP 2021 should be respected and permissions accorded for only single dwellings, public schools, hospitals and places of worship, with the approval of the Gram Sabha in accordance with Amendments 73 and 74.
I appeal to the elected representatives and other politicians, kindly leave some pieces of land for our poor Goans, else history points to anarchy and rebellion where the rich and mighty get crushed under the peoples’ power. The TCP minister has to act as a statesman in setting aside the RP 2021 and commencing preparation of RP 2031 with the participation of the people.
(Captain Viratio Fernandes is a retired Navy officer and co-convernor of Goencho Awaaz)