Don't scrap entire RP; denotify in part, if need be

By Cleofato A Coutinho
29 March 2012 00:06 IST

The new Chief Minister, who presented the first budget after the massive vote against the Congress Party, has somehow managed to keep up with the populist promises made to the electorate. The collection of revenue will be through different routes like the increase in power tariff etc.

Though there was a wave against the Congress party. Unlike the Akali victory in Punjab, the victory of the present ruling party in Goa was certainly not based on of the populist promises which the Chief Minister has managed to honour. Honouring all poll promises, many a times may not be in the interest in the State and the economy. But then that issue ought to be taken care of by the parties at the time of manifesto preparing. However due to competing populism, manifestoes have become sops- offering documents.   

The test of a government would be not on the populist measures like the sops in the budget but in the area of law making and policy formulation. The present ruling party and its manifesto had promised to scrap the regional plan 2021 and to bring in a new plan in consultation with the stake holders. The last government for whatever reasons was unable to sell its pet project RP 2021 as one that was good for Goa. The previous government found it difficult to showcase the new plan due to its otherwise low level of credibility in governance.   The various groups claiming the civil society space had demanded the scraping of the plan in keeping with competing populism among various groups. The Bharatiya Janata Party had accepted the demand to scrap it, in its manifesto and that demand which also had the backing of the church and the clergy. In keeping with the manifesto and in its endeavour of showing of keeping up to the promise, the government through the Governor had announced the denotification of the plan.

The RP 2021 had proposed Eco sensitive zones to the extent of 62.38% in the four talukas (Bardez, Tiswadi, Salcete and Mormugao) under the regional plan.The freezing of all development activity in zones marked Eco-1 and Eco-2. Eco-1 includes forests, mangroves, slopes, water bodies, paddy fields and Khazan lands, mud flats. Eco-2 include orchards, natural cover, cultivable areas, salt pans, fish farms.  

A close look of the land use for Bardez Taluka shows 31.22% area in Eco-1 while 31.85% area in Eco-2. In so far as Tiswadi Talukas 54-04% area is shown in Eco-1 and 18.37% is shown as Eco-2. The Salcete Taluka has 35.31 % in Eco-1 while 24.15% is Eco-2. In so far as Murmugao Taluka 32.57% is in Eco-1 while 21.91% is in Eco-2. It is commendable that in Tiswadi Taluka, the Eco-1 and Eco-2 areas together constitutes 72.41% of the total area. That much area stands frozen till 2021, irrespective of other measures.

At a time when we have seen indiscriminate destruction of greenery in the state, the regional plan was certainly a great leap forward, though there were certain areas that required a scrutiny particularly in those areas where it could be shown that the state level committee had proposed settlement area which did not so deserve by normal parameters applied for Eco-1 and Eco-2 zones.

The VP-2 status for most of the villages where FAR would drop by 20% (i.e. FAR becomes 50%) incase the plot area is more than 4000 s. mts. and in VP-1 status where the FAR would be 60% for plot above 4000 sq. mts. (for few villages in Bardez and Murmugao) were some of the  major highlights that were in tune with the popular demand of the villagers, their impact on urbanisation notwithstanding.

Various groups want the plan to be in tune with the recommendations of the task force. That would have been great. If the task force recommendations were implemented immediately without the lengthy process spreading over three years during which period RP 2021 have been in force. But the demand of groups like GBA almost forced the government to enter into the area of consultative process.

Having committed to denotify the regional plan through the manifesto, the government has now, by giving an assurance to the House through the governor’s address, that the regional plan shall be denotified. That is throwing out the baby with the bath water.  

The proposed denotification will have to necessarily come under Sec. 17C of the Goa Town and Country Planning Act which permits the government to withdraw the operation of the regional plan. Sec. 17C (1) and (2) reads as under …(1) notwithstanding anything contained in Section 17, if at any time after a revised regional plan has been notified/published in the official Gazette (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “revised regional plan”), the government is of the opinion that such revised regional plan is required to be withdrawn, the government may direct the Chief Town Planner to withdraw the operation of the revised regional plan from such date, either prospective or retrospective, as the government deems fit, and in its entirety or in part, as the case may be, and undertake the revision of the regional plan as existing immediately before the revised regional plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “existing regional plan”), in its entirety or in part, as the case may be, and thereupon the foregoing provisions of this Act relating to the preparation of the regional plan shall, as far as may be, apply to the revision of a regional plan under this section.

(2) The chief Town Planner shall, thereafter, withdraw the operation of the revised regional plan from the date as directed by the government, in entirety or in part, as the case may be by publication of a notification in the official gazette and in two local newspapers.

(3) Reads as under. On an from the date of withdrawal of the revised regional plan by publication of the notification under the provisions of sub-section (2) of this section, all development programmes undertaken by any Department of the government or by public and private institutions or by any other person shall conform to the provisions of the existing regional plan.

In fact Sec. 17C of the Town and country Planning Act was introduced in 2007 when Babush Monseratte’s RP 2011 was to be withdrawn and the withdrawal was facilitated by incorporating Sec. 17C in the town and Country Planning Act. 17C of the Town and Country Planning.

Sec. 17C(3) is loud and clear. That in case the Regional Plan 2021 is withdrawn, Regional Plan 2001 shall come into force and that is exactly what happened during the period after the Regional Plan 2011 was withdrawn. After the task force appointed in 2006 gave its recommendations, the Goa Bachao Abhiyan demanded the lengthy consulatative process. Today the Goa Bachao Abhiyan speaks of rectification and not scraping of the plan for the precise reason that scraping of the plan 2021 would mean RP 2001 shall came back into operation.  The Eco zones continued to be exploited during this period until the regional plan 2021 was notified.

Regional Plan 2021 has certain outstanding features. There could be certain malafide features that found its way into the plan that deserves to be corrected.   Even if certain areas which are shown to be malafide and proved so and/or certain proposals are not in tune with the present philosophy of the government and/or not in tune with the demands of the people which the government wishes to honour, those rectification can certainly be considered and fresh plans proposals considered and finalized.

Preparing fresh plan and finalizing it in limited areas does not require scrapping of the entire plan but denotification of the plan in part for that area which requires to be rectified or corrected. Part denotification is possible and permissible. There is no need to tinker with the entire plan. When Sec. 17C of the Act permits the government to withdraw plan is part, scraping of the entire plan shall not be in the interest of the state but only help those wanting to exploit our land for private gain. In such a case the first casualty shall be the Eco zones and who knows how long the fresh notification shall take.

In any case, even if the government wishes to keep up to its manifesto, then the denotification in part is the route and taking into consideration that there are good features, it is good route. However before denotifying in part the fresh proposals for the denotified part must be finalized so that fresh proposals for the denotified areas are notified. 

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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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