Thursday 08 Dec 2022

Latest attempt to sell green Goa must be unequivocally stopped


The Goa government’s moves to amend the Goa Land Development and Building Construction Regulations -- also known as the zoning code -- is a clear, unabashed attempt to destroy whatever little is left of Goa and its provisions especially the “five most dangerous amendments” are nothing but a wholesale attempt to open up previously restricted areas to the builder lobby.

Consider this -- up to now the only kind of construction allowed in fields and orchards are farmhouses and that too only to those who are mundkars. With the new amendments a whole lot of mega projects ranging from golf courses to open-air sports arenas -- which could be anything from stadia, race courses, and motorsports tracks, -- to residential schools, film cities, film studios, yoga and meditation centres and of course farmhouses.

What’s worse, anything up to 1,000 sq metres of built-up area and beyond will be considered a farmhouse. The golf courses will be allowed up to 30% of the land to be built-up area -- making one question whether these are golf courses or residential projects with a golf course attached. Then there are the provisions to allow mega complexes in villages where there is just a six-metre road allowing such projects to come up in our quiet and idyllic villages -- basically the Goa we all know and love is at risk thanks to this amendment.

The only ‘restriction’ that these projects face is that they need to be certified as green buildings -- which is hardly a restriction and will make very little difference to the ecology, ecosystems and social and community life that these amendments threaten. Besides this, there is the increased FAR for hotels and those buildings in the central business areas that have been very arbitrarily zones even in the existing set-up and will only increase pressure on the existing system in Goa.

What stands out in this entire exercise being undertaken by the Town and Country Planning Department is a complete lack of ‘planning’. There is no reference or deference or even a sideways glance to whether Goa needs any of these projects. Do we want Goa to go the way of Bangalore which, as we have seen -- was a victim of a particularly harsh spell of flooding. In recent years flooding has been witnessed in not just Bangalore but several other cities -- Chennai, certain areas of Kerala and over the past few days in Gurgaon and other ‘Millennium’ cities.

That the same individuals who were ministers then and continue to be ministers now with a different label -- has a lot to do with what is presently taking place in Goa. The same men who were behind the now discarded RP 2011, the now scrapped Tiracol golf course, have found themselves back in power but now under a different party.

In many ways, the proposed amendments are trying to do what the builder-politicians nexus failed to achieve thanks to the RP2011 being scrapped and the Eco-tourism policy of the RP2021 which had many similar provisions also being kept on hold.

Goa needs nothing short of a movement akin to those that ensured the earlier plans were scrapped if Goa is to be saved.

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