The National Green Tribunal has ordered the Goa Tourism Development Corporation to ‘undo’ its beautification project at the Baina beach in Vasco da Gama and to restore the beach to its original condition.
Passing orders on two separate petitions filed by one Rajbhau Pawar and the Goa Foundation, the NGT ruled that the area fell under the CRZ I (no development) zone and rejected the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority’s claim that it fell under CRZ II (restricted construction). The GCZMA had earlier granted permission for the project.
“The area being No-development Zone, no construction activity is permissible and constructions in questions have been wrongly allowed by the GCZMA. Accordingly, we allow the Applications and direct the project proponent to restore the area to its original position which may be overseen by the GCZMA. If the project proponent fails to restore the area to its original position within three months, the GCZMA may undertake restoration and take coercive measures as per law, including assessment and recovery of compensation for the violations,” the NGT ruled.
The petitioners alleged that illegal construction activity is being undertaken in the name of beautification of the beach and the area where the beautification is taking place is a sandy beach and intertidal zone and categorised as CRZ-1 under the CRZ Notification, 2011.
The petitioners alleged that the GCZMA illegally granted permission for construction on 20.02.2014, subject to the condition that the project will be restricted between the existing wall and the road curb only.
“In the process of the project construction, sand dunes on the said Baina beach are being flattened and natural features of landscape are being changed which is in utter disregard to the CRZ Regulations. A cement-concrete construction is being carried out within 100 metres from the High Tide Line on an area which is a sandy beach,” the petitioners alleged.
The petitioners also alleged that there were illegal constructions in the name of beautification of the beach which were directed to be removed by the High Court vide order dated 11.08.2007 but in spite of order of the High Court, illegal constructions have started again as was reported in the newspaper ‘The Goan’ dated 03.08.2016.
“The Construction involves concrete columns barely 20 metres from the HTL. As per photographs taken on 29.08.2016, there were constructions within the NDZ of the beach. There is widespread masonry work and alteration of the natural topography in the NDZ, an activity explicitly barred by the CRZ Notification,” the petitioners alleged.
The GCZMA, however, claimed that the construction had been carried out after an NOC granted by GCZMA on 04.03.2014. The area is CRZ-II and the construction activities are permissible in CRZ-II, a stance that was rejected by the NGT.