Thursday 08 Dec 2022

GCZMA powerless, State must have Plan B in place


The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) has been rendered powerless for now since the 3-year tenure of the body ended on October 31, and there is no notification on a new panel. As a result, the coastal belt is left open to violations raising concern over the insensitivity shown by the Environment Ministry. Or are we to believe that the department is still scouting for the people of choice in the team?

The GCZMA, constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forest, on the recommendations of the State government, has been a force to reckon with. The body holds the supreme responsibility of protecting and improving the quality of the coastal environment and preventing environmental pollution under the supervision and control of the Central government. Beach violations and illegal constructions along the coastal belt have been under its scanner.

At a time when coastal illegalities are mounting, especially during the tourism season, the role of the GCZMA becomes crucial because it acts as a watchdog against illegalities and stands as a guardian of our coast. We recall its role in finalising the coastal plan and the exhaustive survey it undertook, which literally saved us our sand dunes and gave a new dimension to the controversy-hit coastal zone management plan.

The callousness in installing an authority whose existence is critical to the State is baffling. By any yardstick, the GCZMA has become indispensable, given the responsibilities it holds. It's like giving the police force a break from duties. No State would do that and leave citizens vulnerable. Moreover, the environment subject is on the concurrent list of the State and Centre, and hence there is more reason for a smooth transition.

According to court guidelines, proposing new names to the body should have commenced at least three months before the end of the term. There is a process in place, and the State's job is to propose names to the body. However, lessons have not been learnt from a similar situation faced in 2016, where the NGT had asked the environment department to initiate proceedings in a case of CRZ-III violations in Anjuna. The term of the GCZMA had ended, and there was no transition. Nonetheless, an interim arrangement was made by empowering the environment department's secretary and director to perform the coastal body's duties.

This time around, however, there are no alternative arrangements in place, and unfortunately, any faint hopes of seeking an extension of term have been dashed because there has been a  delay of nearly three weeks since the end of tenure.

Coastal monitoring cannot be missed for even a day, leave alone three weeks, especially in a State where illegal constructions and violations are mushrooming at a brisk pace. A lack of concern by the State environment ministry is not acceptable under the current circumstances. The department must be held responsible, and a Plan B must be implemented immediately.

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