NATURE: Sotheby’s which is best known for selling paintings of masters like Newton Souza and MF Hussain believes the Cola beach down south Goa is as good as any painting and has put up 40 acres of land for sale here for global sales.
By Our Special Correspondent
The famous art auction company Sotheby’s of England seems to have decided to diversify into the real estate business. Shockingly among the listings on Sotheby’s property for sale globally is prime beachfront land of 40 acres in the Cola village in Canacona in Goa. Obviously for Sotheby’s Goan land is a work of art!
SOTHEBY’S is among the biggest and the most prestigious art galleries in the world. When Sotheby’s reviews a painting for sale it looks at every centimeter of the painting. Sotheby’s main claim to fame is the re-sale of the works of masters like Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Sotheby’s has sold paintings by Indian painters like Vasudeo Gaitonde and Francis Newton Souza for phenomenal prices. Sotheby’s also auctions rare pieces of sculpture, antique jewellery, Faberge eggs dating back to the treasury vaults of the tzars who ruled Russia.
But apparently this very same Sotheby’s is not equally concerned about such mundane things as climate change, the impact a mass slaughter of trees will have on the hilly coastal beachside land. It is not widely known that besides paintings, sculptures and rare artefacts, Sotheby’s also has a flourishing real estate division. Sotheby’s is also in the market for the sale of historical castles, palaces and mansions in the United Kingdom – like the one purchased by Mukesh Ambani in England (namely Stoke Park, a 300 acre London property in Buckinghamshire for Rs592 crore). Southby’s has also purchased prime beachfront property belonging to the Ambani family in Goa as we discovered recently!
INDEED, Sotheby’s aggressive realty division even advertised in the `Times of India’ for both built up property and land in Goa. Amongst the large pockets of land already purchased by Sotheby’s in Goa, is 40 acres of prime beachfront property in Cola village in Canacona taluka. The Southeby’s realty division website even offers images of the sub-divided plots up for sale to anyone in the world. Just as Indian millionaires buy property in the UK, now the floodgates are open for Arabs and Russian millionaires to buy beachside villa plots or the built villas themselves in amche bhangareche Goem.
According to a leading Goan architect, the land being marketed by Sotheby’s on the Cola beachfront is largely made up of thickly forested steep slopes. According to the earlier TCP rules, only 10% of the 40 acres of land falls in the settlement zone where construction is possible. Needless to say any laws prohibiting the cutting of trees to construct buildings on steep forested slopes or thick forest lands is a minor obstacle for the rich and the powerful of the world, like Sotheby’s!
The recent amendment to 16B of the TCP Act allows for random additions to the conversions permitted based on individual applications. If the Cola beachfront hilly slopes are to be converted into settlement land use, there are precedents which Sotheby’s realty can emulate.
It may be recalled that the thickly forested Betim hillsides was decimated by the prestigious House of Tatas to build a Tata residential colony. The residential colony is visible from the Panaji side of the Mandovi river. There has been extensive hill cutting on the Dona Paula-Bambolim plateau for construction of the Aldeia de Goa gated housing complexes and also the Grand Hyatt Bambolim which reportedly falls in the no-development zone of the Coastal Regulations Zone Management Act (CRZMA).
Indeed, a case is pending in Supreme Court seeking the demolition of the Grand Hyatt Bambolim. More recently it was the Kadamba plateau that fell victim to the greed of builders like Gera’s from Pune. Gera’s even boast of their housing complexes having international schools producing such leading tennis stars as Leander Paes – who is being associated with the Gera real estates for training tennis champs in the tennis courts of Gera complex.
Successive governments have reduced the area under private forests sharply to favor industrial groups and builders. The successful Goa Bachao Abhiyan agitation was primarily aimed at preventing the concretization of Goa. Unfortunately, it did not entirely succeed as Babush Atanasio Monserrate got himself appointed as the chairperson of the Planning & Development Authority and not only for Taleigao but also all of North Goa.
In his obsession to transform Goa into another Singapore, Monserrate permitted a huge increase in the floor area ratio all along the Miramar-Dona Paula bypass. We understand that permission is now being extended for putting up huge housing complexes on the seaward side of the Miramar-Dona Paula bypass.
COLA LAND CHEAP!
CURIOUSLY, a builder friend whose attention I brought the Sotheby’s realty sale in Cola village, insisted it was very cheap. And perhaps it is only for big builders and hoteliers – who can afford to pay Rs2.5 crore per acre. But anyone who buys thickly forested hillside sloping plots will have to lubricate many palms to flatten the hillside forested lands. This seems to be entirely and eminently possible in Goa going by the fact that thousands of trees were proposed for massacre for putting up the 420 MV transformer by the Electricity Department in the heart of the Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary.
Not only trees but even ancestral homes have been demolished for the double-tracking of the South West Railway and the expansion of national highways leading to Karnataka. All this to facilitate the transportation of imported coal from Australia — where industrialist Gautam Adani has mega franchise.
Reportedly, Sotheby’s believes that prime beachfront property in Goa, particularly in Canacona and Palolem beaches are works of art. Except they won’t remain works of art if the forests are cut, the hilly slopes flattened…for the construction of villas for the rich and privileged and the bold and beautiful!
So far Goans have only been concerned by the invasion of Goa by big builders from the big metros of the country like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Now apparently we have to be ready for even huge business groups like Sotheby’s have started coveting pieces of golden Goa’s verdant hilly countryside adjoining little pristine pocket beaches – the make up of Goa’s real pie.