Bharat Shah converting Altinho !

| 04 September 2001 22:45 IST

Controversial Bollywood film producer Bharat Shah is now wanted in Goa. The high court has issued him a notice regarding proposed construction of a commercial complex on a hillock of Altinho in Panaji, Goa's capital city.

Altinho, the Malabar Hill of Goa, has been an exclusive residential area preferred by the wealthy and powerful, right from the Portuguese regime. Besides the all-powerful Bishop's palace, the chief minister and ministers' bungalows as well as industrialists and builders' mansions are also situated at Altinho.

With very little land left for any more constructions there, Goa's four leading environmental NGOs have now approached the local bench of Mumbai high court with a PIL, complaining about land conversion on the hill slope in violation of development regulations.

Shah is one of the three parties who has been allowed to convert around 8000 sq mts of land on the hill slope of Altinho, to construct a four-storeyed commercial complex, in a close vicinity of the high court building situated there.

According to Dr Claude Alvares, director of Goa Foundation (one petitioner), the town and country planning board has dropped the ban on construction on hill slopes, allowing conversion in the area reserved as nature reserves and conservation zone while neglecting the frequent land slides taking place on the hillock.

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who is also the Panaji legislator, states that the board has been instructed to reverse its decision and stall the projects. "I will never allow such thing to happen in my constituency", he claims.

In spite of Parrikar's assurance, the advocate general however did not make any such statement in the court. The division bench has now served notices to the Panaji municipal council, the town and country planning board, the Planning and Development Authority as well as Shah and two other applicants.

According to Alvares, Shah plans to build the complex in spite of a prohibition to construct on hill slopes with gradient above 25 per cent. While not more than nine metres of height is allowed on the hillock, Shah's complex proposes to have a height of 17.5 metres, he adds.

Hitting at the builders' lobby that has destroyed Goa with ample amount of land conversions of paddy fields all over the state for commercial purpose, the four NGOs have also demanded dissolution of the board.

Stating that decision regarding Altinho was taken at the 100th meeting of the board, the petitioners allege that all 100 meetings have been utilised by the politicians chairing the board for the purpose of allowing land conversions for personal profit, without scant regard for green Goa's ecology.

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