Is This RP2011 All Over Again?

The Regional Plan (RP) stipulates that zone changes approved, conversions sanctioned and licenses issued in the areas now classified as ESZs shall hold good and that those areas will be appropriately mapped. Considering that the state-level committee (SLC) has approved, inter-alia, many requests from individuals for change of zone of land owned by them, and considering the possibility of the ESZ discussions in the task force being in public domain, one cannot rule out an encore of 2005-2006, when land mafias bought a zone-change for huge tracts of land purchased through influential brokers in high places. In the interest of transparency, the TCP department should make available a list of requests for zone-changes accepted by them, with all details, viz, name of the applicant, date, extent of zone-change requested, and date of approval. These details should be given for the period between January 2007 and November 2010 i.e. from the withdrawal of RP-2011 to final notification of two taluaks of RP2021. This information will enable the `aam admi` to know whether the land-sharks have influenced RP2021 as they did RP2011. Further, the genuineness of the ESZ process can be certified only if there are no zone-changes made into the ESZ areas till RP2021 for all the talukas is notified.

The biggest problem with ESZ-I and ESZ-II is that they probably don`t exist for half of the population of Goa. ESZ, as a policy and practice, is a part of the RP, but not of PDA-ODP, non PDA-ODP and planning zones of municipal councils. Traditionally, the government of Goa has been treating ODPs and RP as separate, mutually-exclusive plans. There is no statement in the taluka plans released that ESZ has been applied to the whole of Goa. This leads one to the inevitable conclusion that ESZ is applicable only to areas covered by RP.

Inspite of Article 243 of the Constitution of India, and the explicit recommendations of the task force, the government seems to be hell-bent on reducing the geographical area where RP is applicable. One can very well question the relevance of an ESZ which does not protect the environment for an `aam admi` and his family just because he prefers to reside in a particular city/town /an overgrown village flatteringly called municipality.

All villages in Mormugao taluka are either under the Mormugao PDA or covered by non-PDA ODPs—whatever it may mean. Many panchayats are split into village panchayat areas and non-PDA ODP areas. The serene, peaceful and beautiful villages in the non-PDA ODP areas of Mormugao, Bardez and Tiswadi talukas will not be able to stop mega-projects in their paddy fields, because somebody somewhere, for his own reason, has decided to classify these villages as non-PDA ODPs, or to split villages partly into village panchayats and partly into non-PDA ODPs.

The RP document gives the Land Use Plan only for Pernem and Canacona; thus one gets to know the land uses in the 27 panchayats of these two talukas. There is no explanation as to why the settlement zone in a particular panchayat is bigger than in other panchayats; nor is there any attempt to lay down a policy in this regard that will be applicable to the other taluka plans yet to be notified.

One of the points made during the SLC`s presentation on the RP was that in Morjim panchayat, though there was a demand from individual applicants for changing 19,000 sq m into settlement zone, the SLC has approved a settlement zone of only 6,000 sq m. Though this suggests that the size of the settlement zone depended on the demand for it by individuals, that is reportedly not the case. Applications from individuals have reportedly been examined with reference to many other parameters.

In fact, the SLC should not have accepted individual applications for changing zones after the draft notification, because there is no legal basis for such an exercise. The 73rd amendment to the Constitution prescribes the modus operandi of a grassroots democracy through ward committees, gram sabhas and panchayats and not through direct individual participation in developmental planning.

The Goa Town and Country Planning Act thus gives an opportunity to the public to comment on the notified draft regional plan. This right, given to public, obviously does not cover their individual needs; individual needs are generally attended to by following a separate procedure after the final notification of the plan. It is under this practice that about 4,000 zone changes were made on individual applications after RP2001 was finally notified. The consideration of such individual requests for change of zone after the notification of the draft RP2021 was unnecessary. This should have been clarified by the TCP department while notifying the draft RP2021.

The size of settlement zones in different panchayats seems to have been decided primarily on the basis of contiguity. Non-settlement zone areas in between two settlement zones have been changed to settlement zones, in order to provide geographical contiguity. Though, the RP has accepted that there will have to be a redistribution of population in the future by encouraging growth in midland and hinterland, thereby reducing the pressure on coastal talukas, no exercise has been undertaken to achieve this objective.

In Keri, Arambol, Mandrem and Morjim coastal panchayats, settlement zone constitutes 16.58%, 17.65%, 19.48% and 22.59% respectively of the total area in those panchayats. Inland panchayats have a much smaller size of settlement zones. Parcem has a settlement zone of 10.64% and Dhargal, 13.54%. Settlement zones in coastal panchayats are larger, presumably because these panchayats are already thickly populated. But, unless the rate of growth of population is reduced in future, population pressure will continue to increase. There is no evidence in the RP of any strategies to redistribute the population by appropriate adjustment of settlement zone sizes and FAR.

What the RP has done is exactly the opposite of what should have been done! It has provided for overcrowding of the existing high-density areas and slow housing growth in sparsely populated areas.

The RP2011 sparked off an agitation because of the gigantic and malafide increase in settlement zones in coastal areas. Pending a detailed scrutiny of approved individual applications, one can only hope that the RP2011 that was thrown out through the window in 2007 has not re-entered through the backdoor in 2010.

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