PANJIM: On World Environment Day, close to 45 civil society associations and organisations have joined hands to oppose the BJP-led government’s unprecedented changes and amendments to the town planning laws, leading to arbitrary zoning changes in the Regional Plan (RP) 2021 and perverse variations in the building and construction regulations to favour private players.
Addressing a joint press conference on Monday, the environmental and civil society crusaders in a notice issued to the government have expressed their firm opposition to any changes to the existing RP under the grab of “rectifying errors” (Section 17 (2) of TCP Act, 1974) and have demanded drafting of new revised Regional Plan 2030 or 2040 with people’s participation, that will draw up a fresh allocation of space and rectify errors if any in the present plan.
They have also opposed the draft amendment to the Goa Land Development and Building Regulations, 2010.
More than 100-odd objections and suggestions have been submitted to the town and country planning department.
On the other hand, Section 17 (2) of the TCP Act has been challenged before the Bombay High Court at Goa.
Director, Goa Foundation, Claude Alvares, Convenor, Goa Bachao Abhiyan Sabina Martins, Architect Dean D’Cruz and President, Goyche Fudle Pilge Khatir, Jack Mascarenhas addressed media persons in the presence of representatives of other associations and organizations. They have warned to launch a people's movement if the government fails to withdraw the amendments and stop arbitrary zonal changes.
Claude Alvares said that the groups gathered here will oppose tooth and nail these arbitrary amendments and changes in the zoning of plots, done to suit private properties. He said that in the last four months, the TCP act has been amended four times, clearly indicating that the government is clueless as to what they are doing.
Sabina Martins said that it is surprising that errors are being noticed in the RP more than a decade after it was notified.
“If indeed there are errors on a large scale which are suddenly now being noticed, then it is time for a new revised RP 2030 or RP 2040 to be drawn up, which will make fresh allocations of space and rectify the errors,” she said.
Martins said that the new RP should be drafted in a holistic manner, through public participation and should go through a proper process of updated data collection and a vision document. She said that the plan should be sent to each village panchayat and municipality to prepare their local plans indicating areas for new settlement zones, and village commons, and get everything ratified through gram sabhas.
“People’s participation will help identify any errors in the RP before it is notified and thus eliminate the need for amendments such as Section 17 (2),” She said.
Dean D’Cruz said that since zoning changes affect everyone, such changes cannot be allowed without public objections.
“Some of the changes allowed violate eco-sensitive zones and some others were in fact rejected when proposed under Section 16B. What is alarming is that the errors are being noticed by private parties, a number of whom are developers and real estate agents, companies, speculating on land in Goa,” D’Cruz said.
He recommended that the government should undertake a carrying capacity study of the State before going ahead with the allocation of settlement zones. He also said that while drafting a new plan, climate change and sea level rise conditions need to be taken into account.
Jack said that Goa’s civil society organizations are irrevocably opposed to any destruction of the State’s permanent ecological assets as it will be a nightmare for our future generation.
The activists have warned the people who have got their zones changed, saying that they are wasting their money as they are likely to get drawn into litigation.