The myriad battles that environmentalists and environment activists in Goa have fought over the past few decades to protect the State from the bulldozer of rampant and unplanned development have now been almost nullified. When dozens of non-government organizations and individuals have opposed the draft Coastal Regulation Zone notification 2018, demanding it be scrapped, the State government in its response sent to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has gone ahead requesting permission for the erection of temporary seasonal structures like beach shacks, huts and other promotional activities like beach wedding and music festival, in the inter-tidal zone, an activity that is otherwise prohibited in this area.
The State government’s letter to MoEF, says that the Environment Department has held consultations with government departments, stakeholders and corporations on the draft notification and the suggestions made have come from these discussions. The letter does not mention which are the stakeholders it has consulted with. This would be interesting to know who these are as various stakeholders, including the fishing community in Goa represented by the Goenchea Ramponkarancho Ekvott (GRE), the traditional fishermen of the State who would have most to benefit from lax CRZ rules, have opposed the draft notification.
The main objection that organisations across Goa have to the draft CRZ notification is that it proposes to reduce the CRZ area to 50 metres from High Tide Line (HTL) from the current 200 metres. This change would alter the landscape of the State, as it would allow development in areas where it is now prohibited. It is highly unlikely that any stakeholder from Goa would have approved this during consultations with the State government.
One glance at the government’s response to the CRZ draft notification makes it obvious that the suggestions stem from a tourism-oriented viewpoint as it lists various activities in CRZ IB, CRZ IIA and B and CRZ III A and B areas such as water sports facilities, beach weddings, music festivals. To take it further, and this is something that every environmentalist in the State would baulk at, the State has sought that it be permitted to have temporary tourism facilities in CRZ IB area which is an intertidal zone – the area between the Low Tide Line (LTL) and High Tide Line (HTL), where now such activities are prohibited. The draft notification has allowed such temporary tourism facilities only in CRZ II and CRZ III areas beyond the No Development Zone (NDZ).
There is a huge divergence between the responses from civil society to the Draft CRZ Notification 2018 and the letter sent by the government to MoEF. The State’s letter is not a proper reflection of the people’s views. Not to take away from the letter that it also makes a case for repairs and maintenance of bunds and sluice gates for aquaculture and also mapping of khazan lands that will protect mangroves. But then it also suggests a lot of other activities in coastal areas that would not serve the purpose of environment protection.
This letter from the government will only serve to further alienate the environment lobby that over a long period of time has resolutely taken up the battle to protect the ecosystem. The choice for the administration was obviously between the environmentalists and the business lobby, and in this case the government is clearly leaning towards corporate and tourism interests. It is now left to the people to fight their own battles.