Court scraps Goa high tide line

| 24 July 2000 23:11 IST

After six years of blatant violation of coastal zone regulation guidelines by allowing concrete jungles along Goa's famous beachline, the high court has now pulled up sleeves to save the coastal ecology and environmental degradation in the tourist state.

In a vital judgement, the division bench comprising Justice Ferdin Rebello and V C Daga has quashed and set aside the High Tide Line, which was demarcated by the state government in July 1994 without consulting the central authorities, for the prime coastline in South Goa.

In yet another separate judgement, the same bench has set procedural functions right from panchayat level to the central state authorities in order to totally prohibit illegal constructions along the prime North Goa coastline, from Candolim to Baga.

Both these judgements are likely to affect chief minister Francisco Sardinha's yet another plan of getting the CRZ guidelines for construction exempted for the riverline as the sea tide reaches almost to the eastern border of the state in all the rivers here.

Environment minister Prakash Phadte has even announced in the ongoing Assembly session that the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography has been entrusted the task to demarcate the HTL for the whole state afresh.

But the high court has already scrapped the HTL demarcated by the Surveyor General of India in 1994, only for the 27 kms of coastline from Velsao to Cavelossim in South Goa, which is supposed to be the longest one-piece beach of Asia.

The whole stretch is known world-wide for not less than 10 five star hotels situated very close to the beach, besides several small hotels, company guest houses and even private bungalows built by people from outside Goa as holiday homes.

While the CRZ defines HTL as 'the line on the land up to which the highest water line reaches during the spring tide', the high court has observed that the HTL on the 27-km stretch was marked by the SGI by calculating 'average between high and low tides', thus bringing it at least 60 metres more close to the sea.

The HTL otherwise considered under the CRZ follows the similar principle considered prior to 1994, as per which permanent vegetation line on landward side or the property abutting the shore where such line did not exist was the HTL.

While clearly stating that the state government had no authority to demarcate the HTL, the high court also observed that one state cannot have two kinds of HTL as the rest of the 105 km long coastline follows the CRZ guidelines.

But since even these guidelines are being blatantly violated for new constructions even by cutting the natural sand dunes, the court has now directed the state-level Coastal Zone Management Authority to decide upon cases of CRZ violation as per the reports received from the concerned authorities.

While Candolim and Calangute panchayats have already been instructed to file reports of illegal constructions to the CZMA by 29 July, it has been made mandatory for the taluka mamlatdars to file weekly reports based on patrolling and fortnightly inspection by deputy collectors, before submitting report to the CZMA for necessary action through the district collectors.

The court has also armed any citizen to safeguard the coastline from degradation, in case the law fails to preserve pristine conditions of the seashore. "Right to clean environment, fresh air and unpolluted water have now been recognised as part of life and it is not necessary to enact a law to make Article 21 of the Constitution meaningful, which guarantees right to life to the citizen", states the order.

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