Herald: NGT orders status quo on Tiracol golf course project

NGT orders status quo on Tiracol golf course project

25 Apr 2015 01:07am IST

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25 Apr 2015 01:07am IST

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Pulls up GCZMA inquiry panel for non-compliance on north coastal belt illegal structures


PANJIM: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed status quo on the lands involved in the Tiracol golf course project. The application for restraining Leading Hotels (the golf resort owners) from felling any trees was made in the appeal proceedings pending before the tribunal.

“Status quo to be maintained till lawful permission is granted for tree felling to Respondent No.7- Project Proponent. Respondent No.8, may consider representation of the applicant, if such application of Respondent No.7, is filed. Stand over to May 12, 2015,” says the order by Justice V R Kingaonkar and Dr Ajay A Deshpande

It may be recalled that Anthony Mendes and two other villagers, in association with the Goa Foundation, have filed an appeal against the  Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) order granting CRZ (coastal regulatory zone)  clearance for the resort and golf course on various grounds.

The appellants had chanced upon the information that the Forest Department had issued permission to the golf resort owners (Leading Hotels) to fell 155 trees from a survey number that has been identified as forest by the North Goa expert committee on private forests. The permission had been issued after the plot had been identified as forest.

A few days prior to the filing of the application, the appellants found workers clearing the undergrowth on Survey No 4. The present application for stay was made apprehending that in the process of clearing, trees would also be cut for the golf course. 

In the meantime, permission to cut the trees had expired and a fresh permit was required.

During the hearings, Leading Hotels submitted an affidavit stating they would not fell the trees, as the permission had expired. The NGT held that the appellants could file an objection with the tree officer, if such an application for felling of trees was made by Leading Hotels in future.

The proposed development of the Tiracol golf course would require the cutting of 1966 trees and their replacement with exotic grass. The project is located on a pristine plateau with dense vegetation in several portions and comprises hill slopes which descend towards the village settlement below and immediately thereafter, the river/sea.

The appeal states that there was no realistic discussion relating to the biodiversity of the site, despite the fact that the EIA (environment impact assessment)  itself surveys a total number of 19,000 plant species.

Meanwhile, the NGT has pulled up the inquiry committee of the GCZMA for not complying with its directions on allegedly illegal structures on the north coastal belt. The Green Tribunal warned that the members of the committee should keep in mind that non compliance could entail serious consequences like prosecution under Section 26 of the NGT act 2010. It has also asked for a report to be made available on May 13, 2015.

According to the NGT order, the site visit of the committee along with a map prepared in respect of the structures indicted in the report dated April 16, 2015 were not placed on record to identify the structures, areas and locations of swimming pools and other amenities. “In other words the report is prepared half heartedly and without paying attention to the order of this tribunal dated March 12. Let members of the committee file affidavits as to why there is non compliance of orders of this tribunal….” says the order, asking why “why appropriate action be not taken against members of the committee. 

However, Member Secretary of the GCZMA Srinet Kotwale said that there was no such order and the committee would be filing its reply next week.

 “We are going to file an application on Monday. It is a bad order as there is no order on March 12. So the question of filing a report does not arise,” he said.    

The order says that if the committee desires to prune the inaction, they may immediately comply with the directions within one week by completely demolishing the illegal structures, filling the swimming pools with debris and a suitable  upper layer  cover through public notices  in newspapers.

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