A group of citizens’ panels has demanded that the government scrap eco-tourism zones from the Regional Plan (RP) 2021. It has termed the inclusion of the zones as going against the interests of the people and an attempt by the government to bring in ‘upscale tourism industries’ through the back door. Members of the the organizations have also said that the inclusion of eco-tourism zones by the government in the final RP 2021 came as a surprise as these had been recommended neither by the RP task force nor gram sabhas and village panchayats.
Citizens have now served an ultimatum of seven days to the government to meet this and several other demands, failing which they have threatened to launch a massive agitation in the state.
All these demands, as communicated to chief minister Digambar Kamat, were presented to the media at a press conference held on Tuesday. Participating organizations included the Pilerne Citizens’ Forum, the Goenchea Xetkareancho Ekvott, Village Groups of Goa, Utt Goenkara and Mopa Vimanthal Piddit Shetkari Samiti.
Another demand made was the restoration of the VP3 status in the finalized RP 2021 as was demanded by most villages, but was mysteriously left out in the final plan. The organizations have demanded ‘white papers’ on some concepts mentioned in the regional plan like ‘growth hubs’ and ‘micro industrial zones, general industry and industrial estates’.
The panels have also demanded a clarification on the plan which was relied on for according permissions to constructions and conversion sanads during the period between September 2008 and November 2010-that is, the period between the draft regional plan and the notification of the final regional plan for Pernem and Canacona.
Members of the organizations said, “The people of Goa are entitled to know as to how some of the village areas have come to be included in the ODPs when there were no recommendations to that effect,” in the planning phase.
Other questions asked included reasons for the drastic variations in percentage of land use with respect to the draft regional plan 2021 and the two notified taluka plans; and steps taken by the government to give effect to the aspirations of the task force that mining activity in Goa be properly regulated and controlled.
Yatish Naik of the Pilerne Citizens’ Forum (PCF) described eco-tourism zones as “an alien concept” and an “exercise to fool the people of Goa”. He said that while the PCF had carried out an investigation to check on some of the survey numbers of these eco-tourism zones, it discovered that survey number 5 in Tiracol belonged to Leading Hotel Private Limited, survey number 330/1 in Loliem (Canacona) belonged to Ardent Infrastructure and Developers Private Limited, and survey number 110 in Keri (Pernem) belonged to Alcon Constructions Private Limited.
The PCF also showed charts of ‘broad land uses’ for the Pernem and Canacona talukas to show that water bodies in Pernem had shrunk from 9.3% of the taluka area in the draft RP 2021 to just 3.95% in the notified taluka plan. Likewise, broad land uses charts for Canacona showed that forest area had dwindled from 79.99% of the taluka area in the draft RP 2021 to only 54.89% in the final taluka plan. “Who has drunk this water? And how have the forests dwindled?” Naik asked.
Judith Almeida, secretary of the Colva Civic and Consumer Forum, complained bitterly that “Colva is being destroyed because garbage and sewage is in the fields. There is no electricity and no water in our village. Have the so-called planners planned for all this? The CRZ is destroyed by outside builders, and village panchayat secretaries and talathis have been colluding with the builders. Hoteliers have aso been releasing their raw sewage directly into the sea,” Almeida alleged.
Bismarque Dias of Goenchea Xetkareancho Ekvott said, “The removal of the VP3 status is a crime. Please take heed of the voice of the people. There will be a bloody revolution. Prices are rising, and our fields are not yielding. Only new buildings are coming up.”
John Philip Pereira of the Goan Village Voice challenged the chief minister to a public debate with the organizations and accused the government of taking pleasure in repeatedly bringing people on the streets.
Sandeep Kambli of the Mopa Vimanthal Pidit Shetkari Sangatna, Zarina da Cunha of Goenchea Xetkareancho Ekvott, Prakash Bandodkar and Paul Fernandes of PCF and others also spoke.