EROSION: There has been widespread erosion of Goa’s beautiful beaches due to destruction of sand dunes, builders have been happily carting away beach sand for their construction works
By Rajan Narayan
The CZMP hearing held at the Campal Parade ground at Panaji and SGPDA ground at Margao were an act of tokenism. The letter of the law may have been followed but the spirit was raped. The Environment Minister tortured activist by holding a non-stop 24 hour hearing without even a lunch break.
Two mega hearings on the new Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) were held at open air venues in the Campal Parade Grounds in Panaji and in SGPDA ground at Margao. These were held on a Thursday, July 8 2021, working day to make it difficult for those who are employed to submit their objections and suggestions to changes to the CZMP.
Environmental Minister Nilesh Cabral very deviously decreed that the hearing would be conducted non-stop for 24 hours. Not even a lunch or dinner break was provided. The whole exercise, as many of the speakers both online and offline pointed out, was a farce, as the people affected were not consulted. Such as the fisher folk whose livelihood would be affected by any coastal zone changes, also shack owners and others living along the coastal belts of Goa.
There were no maps of actual ground reality. There were only Google maps. For instance, in the CZMP map of Old Goa only two of the ten historical monuments were shown. We do not know whether it is a coincidence but soon after the conclusion of the hearing, the number of covid-19 deaths and cases increased on Sunday, July 11 when there were seven deaths as against the average of two on previous days. This was inevitable considering that despite the National Security Act (NSA) declared in South and Section 144 declared all over Goa, thousands of people were forced to come together to the places where the hearings were being held without any consideration for covid-19 protocols. Like maintaining physical distance and wearing masks.
When those attending the hearing protested against the lack of a lunch break the Collector Ruchika Katyal try to pacify them by offering them chocolates and water bottle as though they were small children.
COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT
WHAT is the CZMP and why should every Goan be concerned about it. The CZMP goes back to the time of the late Indira Gandhi, who speaking at Stockholm in Sweden, warned about the need to take steps to limit climate change. She however, added that in the context of third world, poverty was the greatest polluter. It was the late Indira Gandhi who ruled that there should be no construction within 500 meters of the high tide line. The high tide line is the highest point that the waves approach on the beach at high tide. The objective of introducing the rule was to prevent soil erosion and protect sand dunes which offer a natural barrier and protection to inland coastal population.
Many of us have seen the sand dunes on the Miramar beach disappearing over a period of time, not due to natural causes but because builders take away the sand and erase the sand dunes. Hundreds of hotels have come up in Goa at the cost of the coastal stretches of protective sand dunes. Forget about putting up a construction within 200 meters of the high tide line, even as we write, a concrete wall has been built in the middle of Vaguinim beach by the Fomento Resorts which owns the Cidade-de-Goa property, now managed by Taj.
NO CONSTRUCTION ZONE
THE hotel & tourism lobby have repeatedly got the no-construction zone in the coastal regulation areas reduced. Indira Gandhi’s 500 meters from the high tide line was brought down to 200 meters by successive governments. In the case of rivers the distance specified was 30-50 meters at various times. In Panaji and many parts of Goa there have been even bigger scams. To facilitate the building of 5-star and 7-star hotels natural public water bodies near hotels like the Bambolim Hyatt and Cidade-de-Goa have been declared as rivers. Which is absurd because these hotels face the open sea. They were classified as rivers because the no development zone is only within 50 meters in the case of rivers in contrast to 200 meters in the case of the sea.
The modus operandi is simple. Fully aware that what they are doing is illegal, owners of hotels violate the CZMP rules. They are aware that even if a case is filed against them for violation of the rules it will take 20 years to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court after the decisions of the lower courts are challenged. In the case of the Cidade-de-Goa the hotel was built in the early 80s while the demolition order was issued by the SC only in 2005 when Digambar Kamat was the chief minister. In the meanwhile the hoteliers made their money and even recovered cost of construction.
Even if the Supreme Court orders the demolition of illegal structures, if you have a friendly chief minister, the rules can always be changed with retrospective effect. As it was done in the case of Cidade-de-Goa by then Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, for the benefit of his good friend Avdhoot Timblo.
PARSEKAR ADMITS LAPSES
THOSE who are supposed to enforce the law inevitably collude with those who break the law. Laxmikant Parsekar, who became the chief minister when the late Manohar Parrikar went to Delhi as defence minister, has admitted that dozens of illegal hotels have come up in the Morjim beach belt. I recall that whenever there were questions in the Assembly on the number of violations of the CRZ rules, the number used to exceed a 1,000. Parsekar is on record that while he was aware that the constructions in Morjim and other beaches in the Mandrem constituency were illegal, he did not take any action because these illegal hotels provided employment to locals. The Mandrem-Morgim coastal beach areas are also a sanctuary for the Olive Ridley turtles coming up to lay their eggs. These are protected beach hatcheries. A turtle lays hundreds of eggs which hatch and the little ones manage to make their way to the sea, their home.
At least in Galjibaga in Canacona the locals protect the nests where the turtles lay the eggs. In Morjim, which includes Arambol, Mandrem, beach shacks are permitted and they play loud trance music to lazer lights which affects the turtles and they’re scared away from coming up the beaches.
CANADA FEELS HEAT
THE protection of the coastal areas whether in Goa or any part of the world is very important from the point of view of climate change. To understand what climate change implies, you only have to take the current weather happening in Canada and northern America. In areas which are normally considered very cold the temperature is rising up to almost 50 degree Centigrade, causing heat strokes and even death.
In India also the pattern of weather has changed. There have been instances of unseasonal extremely heavy rains which we have experienced even in Goa. In Mumbai there have been several instances of very heavy non-stop rain over particular areas which are greatly damaged. Beaches of course have been destroyed the world over as in Goa which has some of the most sought after beaches. Amongst the worst affected are the Verem and Betalbatim beaches where even the placing of sand bags have not prevented the ever rising tide from reclaiming the land grabbed by greedy and stupid human beings.
What are the issues that are currently agitating Goans? Why are Goans in large numbers attending the public hearings on the proposed changes in the CZMP rules? Ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power the very survival of Goa has a beach tourism destination has been threatened. It was Minister for Waterways and Transport Nitin Gadkari who has been trying to convert the MPT into a dirty cargo port, which will see the import millions of tonnes of coal that industrialist Gautam Adani will be extracting under his lease in Australia. It is Nitin Gadkari, who has proposed the nationalisation of the rivers and creation of jetties in screen beautiful villages like Aldona for the movement of coal. It is Nitin Gadkari who has proposed the double tracking of the South Central Railway to transport coal from the MPT to Hospet for the Jindal and Adani steel plants. It is Nitin Gadkari who has proposed the widening of the national highways.
MURDER OF TREES
THE State Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral, seems to be equally determined to destroy green Goa. It is Nilesh Cabral who has proposed the setting up of a 420 megawatt transmission station in the middle of Mollem wildlife sanctuary.
There are at least two proposals pending for the construction of marinas at Nauxi village and Sancoale village Marinas are huge parking bases for visiting luxury yachts as also for the repair of seafaring vessels. Goans are concerned about the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) claiming ownership of all coastal areas in the State so that public concerns turn to private concerns for development.
On the claim that there is no space available in Goa for compensatory reforesting, the money taken from Goan mine owners has been used to plant trees in other states. How this will benefit or compensate for the trees destroyed in Goa we do not know. More recently several lakh of trees were cut off for the development of Mopa Airport. An equally large number of trees have been approved for the expansion of the new national highway for the benefit of industries based in Karnataka and Maharashtra. What will this do to Goa’s holiday state image eventually?
THE primary objective of the CZMP is to protect the environment. The manner in which the Union Ministry for Environment and the State minister for environment are functioning, their object seems to be to destroy green Goa. It is not only the beaches that attract thousands of tourists to Goa. Increasingly, tourists are visiting spice farms and butterfly parks that have come up in Goa in recent times. Thousands of rich bhaile have bought old Portuguese time houses and restored them, some even designed their own coat of arms historically conferred on leading citizens by the Portuguese government. Most of the huge mansion owned by the fidalgo (so called noblemen) have been sold to outsiders.
This is because Goa is one of the few states in the country where villages are still rural in ambience while developed and offering all the mod con facilities of urban areas. Goans are determined that they should pass on the green Goa they inherited from their parents and grandparents to their children and grandchildren. Above all they want to stop the conversion of Goa into a khaki-colored concrete jungle.
The whole methodology of drawing up the CZMP is wrong. In the normal course and by the virtue of the 72nd and 73rd Amendments to the Constitutionm, the villagers and the local people in Municipal areas have to be consulted before any changes are made in land use and development.
In the case of the Regional Plan 2011, sought to be imposed by Babush Monserrate, an architects team lead by Dean D’Cruz went to every village in Goa to help draw up a sustainable development plan for Goa. Similarly, in the case of the changes sought to be made in the CZMP, surveys have to be conducted on ground level so that local people are consulted. Hearings are not meant to be huge mela presided over by imported IAS officers who know nothing about Goa. We should demand the complete scrapping of the CZMP and another Goa Bachao Abhiyan should be formed to come up with a Goa-friendly, sustainable CZMP in the interest of the people of Goa.