Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Can carrying capacity survey change the narrative for Goa?

| JULY 03, 2024, 11:49 PM IST

Former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu’s statement on Tuesday that there is a need to conduct a scientific study on Goa’s carrying capacity finds meaning against the backdrop of the Assagao case where it came to light that the residential house and property was bought by an "outsider".  The former minister subtly pointed to the growing trend among several non-Goans, including government officers, of making Goa their second home. This is what Prabhu said: Goa is the most beloved State in the country and everyone wishes to settle here, even government officers want to retire here. Goa has become an extension of Delhi.

The Union Minister’s statements make sense in the wake of the churn seen on the landscape in recent times. The Assagao demolition case may have been a trigger to the statement, but there are countless properties that have been bought and sold by land dealers across the North Goa coastal belt. Assagao, for example, is flooded with villas, bungalows and apartments occupied by the monied class from Delhi and other States.

While the discourse has been about an increasing influx of settlers, one wonders whether a study on carrying capacity could genuinely help in turning the tide and help the cause of Goans. On paper, the idea sounds a bright one, possibly giving a glimmer of hope against the “Paradise Lost” narrative. But, can this be a practical idea?

The irony is that in Goa there is a vast difference between ideas and practicalities. For example, the State adopted a beach-carrying capacity plan in 2017 for shack allocation, at the directives of the National Green Tribunal. But the tourism department has for successive years failed to strictly adhere to that plan, and has done shack allotment bypassing the very plan.

On the ground, restrictions have been flouted with impunity in complete contravention of the plan. Popular beaches like Calangute, Baga, Colva and a few others see a high volume of tourists exerting tremendous strain on the infrastructure. The objective of the beach carrying capacity report is lost because the intent is missing.

Cut into the carrying capacity of the State as a whole, the same holds good. The major point of contention here is whether the government can draw a “Lakshman Rekha” in a segment where the stakes are high and whether citizens can ward off the lure of money that real estate is fetching. The ground situation can never be in sync with a survey because our topography is constantly changing. What is a reality now, may not be so next month because land alignments are in transition.

It is a welcome sign if the NIO is already tasked with such a survey, but it remains to be seen how and when the report is presented. We ask this because there is a lot to look forward to since it encompasses the entire State. It would be also interesting to understand what the government does with the report because land laws will also have to be tweaked.

The only positive from the Union Minister’s statement is that a realisation has dawned about the state we are in, and a thought has been put forward, that, if the government is willing, there could be a broad template to contain the loss.

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