Full marks for Regional Plan

By Cleofato A Coutinho
03 November 2011 20:48 IST

The Regional Plan 2021 is finally notified for the entire state. There have been some murmurs over the plan showing wide roads in certain areas. Certain groups clamoured the withdrawal of the Regional Plan. But there is a silver lining. At last the Goa Bachao Abhiyan has confirmed that withdrawal of the Regional Plan could prove more detrimental to the state. In fact the entire process of subjecting the report of the task force on the Regional Plan to a consultation process has delayed by over two years.

During these two years, plans based on Regional Plan 2001 were operational. Regional Plan 2001 did not have any place for eco sensitive zones, which are now frozen from developmental activity. It would have been great had the GBA, which pioneered the movement against the Regional Plan 2011, saw the brighter picture portrayed by the task force. Government policy could come as a result of a consultative process. But to subject every right and wrong to a majority or minority as a case may be could be devastating and retrograde. What would have happened if the State level committee accepted the proposals of Village Panchayats of Pernem Taluka to convert the entire Taluka to settlement!

Had the pioneers shown little flexibility over the consultation process three years back, the eco sensitive zones could have been saved from destruction three years back. But then it requires courage of conviction to give credit to the government which is otherwise seen as not credible due to falling standards of governance.  Better late then never!!

The demand of the GBA contrary to the demand of village groups is the correct step and certainly a bold step. But somehow in the season of attack on the government over various issues of maladministration and corruption, the GBA stand found no place in the front pages of newspapers.

In a way the Regional Plan 2021 is a giant leap forward for this tiny state, which has seen indiscriminate development at the cost of Goa’s greenery in the past few decades. The Regional Plan Goa 2021 has been finalized and the government recently notified the four coastal talukas of Bardez, Tiswadi, Mormugao and Salcete. These four talukas are heavily populated and mostly urbanized. It is these talukas’ plans that need to be scrutinized for the real impact of the Regional Plan.

Figures shown below prove beyond doubt that private and personal interests have certainly taken back stage in finalizing the Regional Plan 2021. The accusation of hijacking of the Regional Plan 2021 needs to be condemned, if one takes into account the figures given by the government.

It needs to be celebrated that in these dark days of governments being seen as not responsive to the aspirations of the people, the Goa government has notified the Regional Plan, which plan is in keeping with the mood of society for the past about 6 years. Credit must be given where it is due and particularly in this season of holding the governments accountable, a good work done deserves a special mention. The government deserves to be complimented at least in this area of finalizing the Regional Plan in tune with the sentiments of the society and at the same time taking stock of the need of the hour of the developing state. I am of the opinion that the plan could not be any better, given the political scenario.

The major highpoint of the Regional Plan is the classification of settlements in the taluka of Salcete. All the villages of Salcete taluka are classified as VP-2 settlements while in Bardez and Tiswadi urbanized areas coming under Village Panchayat jurisdictions have been shown as VP-1 status. In Mormugao taluka, Cortalim–Quelossim is shown as VP-1 status.

Under VP-2 status, the FAR is 50% and ground + one floor structure for plots above 4000 sq. mts. while for the plots less than 4000 sq mts, it is 60% FAR.

In case of VP-1, it is 80% FAR for plots less than 4000 sq. mts. and 60% for plots above 4000 sq. mts.

The implication of these classifications may have certain long term effects. Implications apart, certainly the village groups and the non-governmental organizations, which goaded the panchayats in Salcete taluka to opt for VP-2 status have succeeded. In a way, the state level committee which had provisionally notified for inviting comments  the draft Regional Plan, has accepted the vociferous demand to bring down he built up area in the villages surrounding the city of Margao. Henceforth, our villages around Margao shall have fewer flats compared to the existing state of affairs.

By all means the government which was always accused of acting hand in gloves with the real estate lobby has done a commendable job in appointing experts and importantly accepting the recommendations of the experts. The high point of the task force, which  was appointed by the government, has frozen certain areas classified as ‘Eco-1’ consisting of forests, mangrove forests, private forests, water bodies, and khazan lands and as ‘Eco-2’ consisting of orchards, natural cover, cultivable areas, salt pans and fish farms. At least for the next 10 years, these areas shall remain free from any sort of development.  That calls for a celebration!

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 taluka 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 Mormugao 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 constitute 72.41% of the total area. Broadly speaking, in the four talukas, the total area under Eco-1 Eco-2 is shown to be 62.38%.

The above figures have gone completely unnoticed. The figures show the concern for green Goa and the aspirations of the people being accepted by the planners. It is a matter of great relief that an area of 62.38% in the four developing urbanized talukas over 62.38% of the total area has been frozen. As against these figures in Bardez taluka, the total settlement area is 32.44% while in Tiswadi it is shown as 20.45%. Salcete has a total settlement area of 28.12% and Mormugao 33.45%. The settlement areas referred herein are excluding the areas shown for industry, transportation, micro industry zones and institutional. The settlement areas include the existing settlement areas.

A great exercise of consultation with the panchayats, village groups, non government organization was undertaken by the government in its hunt for proper land utilization formulae. It’s a matter of great relief that the tiny state of Goa, which has seen large scale environmental degradation, has finally seized the moment and stopped the wheels of concretization from running amuck.

Certain groups have raised certain doubts over certain specific issues. Specific issues where there is a fraud can always be corrected but specific issues must not be permitted to defeat the commendable exercise undertaken by the government.

The state level committee for Regional Plan has recommended that there will be a limited view for the Regional Plan 2021 after every 5 years from the date of the final notification of the plan. The Regional Plan 2021 came as a result of a great movement against the Regional Plan 2011, which could lead to the destruction of Goa. There can be no two opinions that the Regional Plan 2021 is a commendable job done by the state level committee on Regional Plan which, was not permitted to be hijacked by private personal and political interests.

There may be minor discrepancies. But by and large, the broad picture that comes out in respect of the areas shown under settlement and the areas shown under Eco-1 and Eco-2 clearly shows that private interests have not been allowed to prevail. The Eco-1 and Eco-2 areas shall have to be preserved by eternal vigilance. Only eternal vigilance shall protect these sensitive areas for posterity.  Regional Plan 2021 is the actually a gift for the next generation.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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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

Dotor , when objections are invited statutorily, it is incumbent and mandatory that those objections rejected should be assigned a reason. Those who have objected do not even know why their objections were rejected? Objections uninvited surely can be rejected. But in this case these objections were in fact legally solicited. How could they be summarily rejected without assigning reasons. This is why I say that though this Country boasts of Freedom of Expression, it actually means. You may talk as much as you wish, but we don't Listen.

- Antonio Alvares, Navelim | 06 th January 2012 09:51


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