Herald: Another delay, another fine, and then action

Another delay, another fine, and then action

05 May 2019 05:21am IST
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05 May 2019 05:21am IST

The Rs 1 crore fine that the National Green Tribunal has imposed on the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority is a clear indication that the local bodies will use every possible means to delay in taking action against those violating the environment rules.

In November 2017 the Tribunal had directed GCZMA to take action against temporary structures constructed along the beaches of Morjim, Mandrem, Galgibaga and Agonda without specific permission from GCZMA in No Development Zone (NDZ). On February 25 this year, hearing an execution application, the Tribunal had ordered for a factual and action taken report from GCZMA within one month.

Now sample this: On February 25, 2019, directing GCZMA to submit a factual and action taken report, NGT had observed, “The GCZMA is not performing its duty as a regulatory body to remedy the illegalities.” On May 1, 2019 NGT said, “The fact that the GCZMA is now examining the report would reflect undeniably that it is unaware as to whether the directions had been complied with or not. This, in our view, is a sorry state of affairs.” It is clear that the tribunal finds that the local authority has not been serious in undertaking the task it had been mandated to do. 

But it now comes to light that on April 26, GCZMA did take up this issue in its meeting and decided to demolish structures operating illegally in the vicinity of the turtle nesting sites and impose a fine. That decision was yet to be communicated to the NGT. And on May 4, the orders for the demolition were passed. The fact still remains that this took an inordinately long time for the authority to decide, and the implementation has not even been started. That’s the illness that plagues Goa – a government that delays all decisions. 

On a very regular basis, small battles are being fought by the green warriors of Goa, who even after getting court and tribunal orders in their favour have to continue to battle to ensure that the orders are implemented. What does this say of a State administration? That it is not bothered about protecting the environment? That it shrugs its shoulder when it receives a court or tribunal order that is to be implemented and casts it aside? That’s what can be gathered by this latest order of the National Green Tribunal.

This is just one case, one example regarding one environment issue. There are many more. A little over a month ago the Supreme Court sent back the Environment Clearance granted to the Mopa airport project and asked the Expert Appraisal Committee to review this. This again indicates that the body had not performed the task as expected of an expert body. 

Where is this money to pay this fine going to come from? The only source to meet the fine is the taxpayer. The people do not pay taxes for the government to use this to pay fines for tasks not done by it. Taxes are paid by the people for the government to use it in development activities. This is the second fine imposed on a State authority for not completing a task or not meeting a deadline. A few weeks earlier the Indian Olympic Association had decided to fine Goa Rs 10 crore for its failure to organise the National Games, which have been postponed a number of times already. In a matter of weeks, Goa has been fined twice by National bodies. Not a good record to have.

Accountability in government is lax. The fine will be paid from the government coffers, but will the body or the officials responsible be pulled up for the ‘failure’ as termed by the NGT? Some form of accountability and control over the bureaucracy has to be introduced. This has been debated often, but no government has taken the initiative of implementing it. The administration has to be made aware that they are servants of the people and that they have certain duties to perform, within a stipulated timeframe. Responsibility and accountability are the only manner in which the government servant will begin to perform. 
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