Scrapping RP21 will destroy Goa

By Cleofato A Coutinho
18 January 2016 12:49 IST

With a promise of bringing economic prosperity, the Parrikar government brought the Draconian Investment Promotion Law of 2014 with powers to destroy what little is left of Goa.  The super law overrides all local body laws, Town and Country Planning Act, the Goa Regulation of Buildings and Land Development Act, Land Revenue Code, Regulations under the Regional Plan and the Outline development Plan.

The Investment Promotion Law shall only facilitate creation of ‘investment republics’ free of local laws. The law not only is a fraud on Goa and Goans but shows the arrogance of the majority which used ‘special status’ plank to get power. All that is required to create an ‘Investment Republic’ is declaration of an area to be ‘investment promotion area’ by the investment promotion board headed by the Chief Minister. The board consists of four ministers, two senior government officials and six industrialists appointed by the government. What can happen if the architect from Taleigao becomes the Chief Minister of Goa is anybody’s guess! This is actually creation of SEZs by the Goa government, something against which the civil society fought and succeeded. The main opposition to the SEZs had been that this little place shall get overwhelmed by them. But the Parivartan government has thrown us from frying pan into fire. We have to blame ourselves for being so gullible at election time and for being not vigilant enough at the time when the investment promotion law was tom-tomed by the then Chief Minister and the captains of industry as the only way of economic recovery.

The declassification of the coconut tree as a tree and putting the coconut trees in the category of ‘palm’, ‘plant’ and ‘grass’ requiring no permission for their felling shows the level to which the government can bulldoze their way and destroy the ecology and the landscape. The nexus between the declassification of the coconut tree and the proposed brewery in Sanguem is now well established.

The explanation of the minister for environment and forest for deleting coconut tree from the category of trees under the Preservation of Trees Act 1984 is an unresponsive stand to the public views and public sentiments and a betrayal of the 2012 mandate. If in the year 2008 coconut trees had to be classified as a tree, it was a conscious stand of the then government to bring the coconut tree within the sweep of protection under the preservation of trees act. It is clearly a part of the Goan landscape and a part of Goa’s ethos and culture irrespective of religion.

Credit must be given where it is due. The previous government, which was accused of being hand in gloves with the real estate lobby, deserves a word of appreciation for bringing the coconut tree within the Preservation of Trees Act at a time when the social customs of protecting coconut trees were crumbling. It was Alina Saldanha who managed to safe the cashew tree. She was shown the door in the environment ministry. The then government withdrew the controversial regional plan 2011 and rolled back the SEZs finding itself in choppier waters. One can only imagine the fate of Goa if present day rulers were in power when the Tiswadi Satrap attempted to paint the entire Goa pink.

There can be no doubt that this tiny state has to be made a land of opportunities. The trend of our young finding greener pastures elsewhere must be arrested.   But a balance has to be struck between development and its landscape. Development cannot be brought about by destroying the very idea of Goa and that is exactly what is sought to be achieved through what is now seen as a Gujarat model of development.  

 

As the debate on the coconut tree enters a crucial phase, comes the news that the Regional Plan 2021 could also be scrapped. The Regional Plan 2021 prepared after experts referred to as the ‘task force’ recommended freezing of certain areas classified as ‘eco I’ consisting of forest, private forest, water bodies and khazan lands and ‘eco II’ consisting of orchards, natural cover, cultivable area, salt pans and fish ponds. That covered about 60% of the heavily populated talukas of Salcete, Bardez, Tiswadi and Mormugao. To my mind RP 2021 was a good plan, only certain creases needed to be ironed out. (I said that four years back and was almost stoned, but by the latest stand of GBA I stand vindicated). The credibility of last government was so poor that it could not convince the civil society of the merit in the plan and the government succumbed to the pressure around the emotive land issue. There is opposition to the Regional Plan 2021 particularly in the villages of Salcete. The opposition to the plan has become very handy to the government to propose the scrapping of the plan in the election year.  

Now the government tells us that the survey of private forests has not yet been completed and around the same time the forest minister, who also holds the environment  portfolio, has agreed to allow handling of iron ore dumps in forest areas despite the six members’ expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court opposed to that view. Despite RP 2021 frozen, the five star hotels have already got a 20% increase in the FAR. As the RP 2021 lay frozen, it is bonanza for all. Without any rules eco-tourism/eco industry is exploited making farce of RP 2021.  After the recent changes in the North ODP, what is now being sold is not land but FAR!   

The storm around the coconut tree must not be permitted to blow over. It must be converted into a hurricane to root out the madness.  

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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Previous Comments

Scrapping regional plan is a good thing. We should also get rid of zoning laws as soon as possible so that Goan real estate can be put to a good use.

On one hand we claim that politicians are asses and on other hand we want politicians to decide what we should do with our own land! This is called slavish mentality.

- Aryan, Panaji | 28 th January 2016 13:47

 

Goa is a huge consummer republic. Only place perhaps which is not ready to produce but ever eager to run after consumption. This culture had been there for decades. We import inflation and consummerism. This is firmly supported by money order economy (NRIs) and liberal govt jobs. Problem is beyond anyone's comprehension.

- Madhav Bastodker, Ponda | 20 th January 2016 08:09

 

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