Eco-tourism in Sanctuaries made a law, Opp again walks out

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 15 January 2016 17:34 IST

The opposition once again staged a walkout from the Assembly today on passing of the bill allowing eco-tourism projects in the eco-sensitive zones of wildlife sanctuaries of Goa.

The bill was actually relating to the ordinance passed by the government in this regard in November.

The BJP-led coalition has amended The Goa Town and Country Planning Act 1975, inserting clause 42 A to set up eco-tourism activities.

Section 42 of the Act speaks about the land use to conform to development plan relating to change of land use.

The amendment added to this original clause permits any applicant to set up eco-tourism activity, permitted in the eco-sensitive zone notification.

“We are not permitting any eco-tourism activity beyond what the Ministry of Environment and Forest has specified in its notification”, clarified deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza.

The amendment primarily allows the developer to use the land for eco-tourism without obtaining any conversion of land or any change of zoning or change of land use.

While the owner of the land needs to have minimum 20,000 sq mts of land, not more than 5% of such land can be used for eco-tourism. There is no upper limit for the land specified in the bill.

While proposing amendment to the bill, Congress MLA Alex Reginald Lourenco had proposed to delete section 42 A, the only amendment the bill proposed.

 

In fact D’Souza asked him why he is not demanding scrapping of the bill since it has nothing more than adding section 42 A to the act.

While Lourenco alleged that the bill was brought to benefit 2-3 projects including Vanxim, the deputy chief minister clarified that neither Vanxim nor Terekhol projects come under this bill.

He also stated that the bill is brought to send positive message to the tourism industry and not a single project has been approved in the last two months.

Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte expressed fear that developers may simply take advantage of this amendment and spoil the eco-fragile system in the no-development zone of the sanctuaries.

Both Lourenco and Khaunte demanded that the bill be referred to the select committee, but it was not accepted by the Speaker.

Opposition members walked out in protest when Speaker Anant Shet also did not agree to the division vote demanded by Lourenco.

The bill makes it mandatory to obtain prior approval of the state-level eco-sensitive zone monitoring committee and also construction licence from the village Panchayat. 

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