Efforts by the State government and the Loliem Comunidade to push for the Film City at Bhagwati Plateau in Loliem-Polem suffered a major setback when hundreds of residents unanimously passed a resolution to reject the proposal at a Gram Sabha on Sunday.
Not only did the residents resolve to take all steps to conserve plateaus of Loliem village and prevent the grant of comunidade lands for the purpose of the Film City, they also resolved to take the fight against the Film City proposal and for the conservation of the plateaus up to the highest courts in the country.
The hall for the much-anticipated gram sabha was filled to capacity and eight of the nine panch members, including newly-elected Sarpanch Nisha Chari and Dy Sarpanch Chandrakant Sudhir, were also present.
Panchayat Secretary Sandeep Dessai took up various points to be discussed on the agenda but for the over 200 people present at the Gram Sabha, the focus of attention was on the discussion over the proposed Film City.
When the letters seeking a discussion on the Film City project came up for discussion, Sarpanch Nisha Chari quickly responded that no correspondence or proposals were received by the panchayat regarding the Film City.
Residents then countered the sarpanch and claimed that the panchayat is responsible to obtain the requisite information for any project proposed in the panchayat area by any person, organisation or any authority, and place it before the gram sabha for the considered opinion of members.
The gram sabha discussed and deliberated on the proposal to establish a Film City at Loliem in view of the Loliem Comunidade’s unanimous resolution to hand over 10.5 lakh sq. mtrs of land to the ESG.
Residents expressed shock, disbelief and anger at the proposal, and pointed out different reasons to reject the proposal. They claimed that this was an attempt to usurp village land for private profit and it would have disastrous consequences to the entire village.
Gram Sabha member Om Prabhugaonkar informed that he was present at the general body meeting of the Loliem Comunidade (on October 15), and the comunidade had adopted a resolution to hand over a large area of its land which falls within the jurisdiction of Loliem-Polem panchayat to set up a Film City.
It was further informed that ESG had issued a public notice inviting land owners to propose to give their lands to establish a Film City, and the Loliem Comunidade had sent its proposal following its resolution.
Another gram sabha member Dennis Fernandes claimed that the panchayat is given the function of ‘Maintenance and Preservation of Community Assets’ under the Goa Panchayat Raj Act, and as such, the Panchayat and Gram Sabha are bound to preserve the plateaus as Community Assets.
The residents also put forth as many as 16 different contentions to reject the film city project in Loliem-Polem.
Among them, the gram sabha members noted that the plateaus of Loliem are the habitat of rich biodiversity and hence, wildlife conservation of the plateaus for the traditional uses is essential for biodiversity and ecological reasons.
It was also pointed out by Gram Sabha members that every 'photo shoot' for a film creates huge amounts of garbage, including large amounts of Plaster of Paris, construction material, plastics, and other non-biodegradable and hazardous waste, which the Loliem-Polem panchayat is incapable of handling.
It was also stated that scarce resources of water, electricity, health, employment, roads, etc. would be denied to local communities due to huge increase in population from present 5,000 to 20-25,000 persons (additional people required for the Film City to function), and due to demands from the Film City itself. They also noted that the carrying capacity of Loliem village does not permit any such large projects.
After much deliberations, the residents then unanimously passed a resolution to reject the Film City, and to take steps to conserve the plateaus of Loliem village.