We have heard all kinds of plans being prepared for Goa such as Regional Plans, Outline Development Plans, Coastal Zone Management Plan, Smart City Plan, etc. All these so far as we have all witnessed being prepared with little or no participation from the citizens. No inputs have been taken at the gram sabhas either. And what is the development of the State we see today? What is the state of Goa today?
In the villages of Arrossim, Velsao, Majorda and others, the double tracking of railways is being done. Private land has been encroached upon with no regard to the heritage houses or impact on nearby wetlands or waterways. Every day there have been instances of villagers fighting on ground while JCBs, dumper trucks and heavy machinery are mowing down the rights of the local people and their lands. Mud has been dumped into the River Sal and its tributaries, posing a threat of flooding in the monsoons round the corner. There are reports everyday of villagers in these affected areas, gathering on ground to inquire, stop and demand action to remedy this mayhem that is being let loose by the Railways with police protection.
The highway cutting across Goa looks like a war site swallowing huge tracts of agricultural land and wetlands. Mud and dust everywhere, barricades haywire, signage that is misleading or absent, hills cut everywhere to fill up the raised bases for the ‘sky drive’ from the southern tip of Goa to the North.
Panjim city and towns are all in piles of dust from the frantic construction activity as new buildings that seem to tower with no purpose emerging as the new modern face of dumb planning. Panjim has become a living hell for its citizens. The entire heritage city is dug up haphazardly. There are pipes being laid, pavers being removed, medians removed, resurfacing of already executed tarmac, repaving and redoing of an entire street that was recently done along Campal. Several laden trucks have already gone aground over the last few months unusually sinking along the very roads that have been dug up. The old heritage drains built more than 100 years ago have been disrupted. Senior citizens, women and children have met with so many accidents and mishaps because of this unmonitored and haphazard work. A pedestrian bridge has come up that is eight metres wide and with footings that have impeded the already stressed exit of the St Inez Creek which is affected by tidal currents. All this under the guise of Smart City and G-20! It is ironic that both the Smart City and G20 initiative and forums are meant for addressing major issues of climate change mitigation and sustainable development and what we are seeing on ground is complete disregard and ignorance to the very issues that these are supposed to address. Goa is responsible for over 50% CRZ violations reported across India. Shouldn’t we be ashamed of this statistic?
In every village in Goa we are now seeing massive construction activity. Second homes, party villas, gated colonies, apartment buildings and shopping complexes are sprouting everywhere. A huge number of trees and vegetation is being shaved off entire hill slopes. Right across the Mandovi, one can see the hillsides already tampered with massive retaining walls and disappearing tree cover. Developers are promising new ‘Aldeia de Goa’s’ on village hill slopes from Bambolim, Curca, Bainguinim, Kadamba to Ribandar.
Forests too have not been left alone. This month witnessed the biggest and longest burning of Goa ever with its pristine Western Ghats and other private forests at the mercy of man-made arson. More land opening up for non-forest activity? More ‘development’? You bet!
Goa is gone, isn’t it? For its locals, for its people, Goa is slipping away, nearly gone. Besides the major issues of land grab, environmental violations, the crime rate is ever increasing. Sewage pollution is at an all time high with nearly 80 % of groundwater contaminated and creeks and rivers in Panjim with the stench of sewage. Fields are being filled with debris. Mining too is not to be ignored. With development taking the definition of cement concrete, iron ore mining, basalt stone quarrying and mining of river sand has ruined Goa’s forested landscapes and riverine ecosystems.
Do you remember in the old days when any development works were carried out how proper signage, manning by police personnel and inclusive planning by citizens and local representatives made life easier? We felt cared for and people engaged with resolving glitches on the ground. Development funds were judiciously used. Today there is a general resentment among citizens that our representatives do not care, the law enforcement agencies too have no empathy and it is the corporations and companies that are running the show. Development has become all about money, utilising funds for possible kickbacks. Citizens are happy as long as personal favours are being met by their local representatives. The commons are being plundered. The future of our children is being plundered.
What Goa needs today is a RETRIEVAL plan. How can we retrieve Goa’s soul, its ethos and its uniqueness? How can we retrieve true Goans with strong values? How can we retrieve its true representatives and real politicians? How can we retrieve its true defenders of environmental and social justice? How can we retrieve its peacemakers? The retrieval plan calls for an alliance of all Goans with a passion, love and empathy for its motherland. No one can deny its mother just that.
(Tallulah D’Silva is an
Architect and silver awardee of the Golden Door Award 2020 for truth