A strong Coastal Zone Management Plan is of extreme importance to the future of Goa. The drafting of such a plan must be done in a participatory and inclusive manner - as it was envisioned in CRZ 2011 notification.
Tania Devaiah finds Goa’s CZMP drafting exercise sorely lacking in this regard
he CZMP currently in force is a 23 year old plan which consists of a 6 page document shared on the GCZMA website. No maps associated with the 1996 CZM plan are available in the public domain right now. This makes it impossible for one to compare the proposed draft maps with the existing maps to gauge what changes have been made. A comparison of the text document of 1996 and recently released the “draft report” shows that the latter is sorely lacking in any detail. In fact, the entire section on “Special Conditions/Modifications/Classification” detailing taluka wise CRZ demarcation and protections is missing in the current draft report.
According to RTI information received from the GCZMA last year, a “Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan Notification” had been prepared in 2017 which included this information but that has not been put out for the purpose of this consultation. These documents also shows that the GCZMA set up an expert committee in January 2017 to create a “comprehensive plan” in consultation with traditional communities in CRZ III area which should include construction/ reconstruction of their dwelling between 100 and 200 mts of the high tide line, provisions for disaster management and sanitation as stipulated under Para 8 (CRZ III) A ii of the CRZ Notification of 2011. GCZMA had to issue an order to this committee again in February 2017 directing it to complete the report within 45 days. It seems counterproductive that all this work by the concerned departments, if completed, finds absolutely no mention in the draft maps or draft report.
The documents put up for public consultation by the GCZMA include Draft maps in the scales specified by the CRZ 2011 notification and a draft report. Most of the maps do not show fishing villages accurately nor do they present any future housing plan for these communities. They do not show key features mentioned in the guidelines such as common use areas like boat parking sites, fish landing sites, fish breeding sites, ecologically sensitive areas, hazard line, storm shelters and many more.
In villages like Sancoale in Mormugao taluka located along the banks of the Zuari, close to where it joins the Arabian Sea, most families around the bay engage in fisheries activities using stake nets, handheld funnel like nets to catch shrimp and smaller fish, others nets that they use when out on their canoes and regularly engage in shell picking (bivalves and other shellfish). A miniscule section of the CRZ area in this village has been shown as a fishing village and absolutely no common areas like fishing grounds or breeding sites have been shown.
In fact, Sancoale and neighbouring Chicalim Bay are both very important to Goa from an ecological point of view because it is in the shallow waters of these bays that the endangered Windowpane oysters are still found. So much so, that the State Biodiversity Board has been considering notifying this area as a Biodiversity Heritage site.
Ironically, in this same area over which Mormugao Port Trust also claims it jurisdiction, geomorphological features like sand bars and a small island are missing all together from the draft maps. It is important to highlight here that villagers in this area have been fighting for many years to keep at bay the plans to build marinas and bring casinos to their doorstep.
Goa’s unique khazans have in many cases not been shown at all. Many heritage sites like caves and springs too fail to find a mention. Things that do find a mention are for example jetties owned by companies/ big landlords, High Tide Line (HTL) that snakes its way around select properties and large areas of water bodies simply marked as CRZ IV with no demarcation of what kind of water body it is. In some cases, areas which previously were not under the purview of CRZ are now included, no explanation given.
Taking the example of Sancoale again, some khazans are shown as CRZ I A instead of being separately demarcated as khazans which are man-made structures used for framing and fishing by local communities. While one can argue that marking khazans as CRZ I A may help protect them from development activities, this is actually not true. Within the CRZ 2011 and the recent 2019 notifications is a list of exceptions to the protective controls placed on these ecologically sensitive areas. That list includes constructions for defence installations, trans harbour linkages, sewage treatment, sanitation facilities, jetties, roads, schools, exploration and extraction of natural gas, storage of non hazardous cargo within notified port areas among other things. This in effect, means that if khazans are marked as CRZIA, they may be out of the reach of local communities for their traditional usage and governance but will still be available for the State and whomsoever the State entrusts these areas to.
What about Wildlife Protection?
Even conservation areas marked for turtle nesting for example seem to defy logic. Very small sections of beaches like Morjim have been mentioned as turtle nesting sites as if the Green and Olive Ridley Turtles who visit Goa’s beaches will abide by these superficial demarcations. In fact, anecdotal information from citizens networks in Goa shows turtles nesting (and stranding) has happened in many more beaches in Goa than have been given the tag of “turtle nesting site”.
Other issues like the lack of cognizance that other species like the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, porpoise, crocodiles and otters under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act also share the land, rivers and coastal waters of Goa with its indigenous communities seems to have gone unnoticed.
But how could this be the case, you may wonder if the CZMP presented to the Goan public on June 6, was indeed drafted in consultation with relevant stakeholders as the CRZ 2011 notification necessitates?
The answer may lie in the fact that, according to RTI information received from the GCZMA in 2018, various “stakeholders” were in fact invited to give feedback to the draft in 2017 much before it was put in the public domain. None of these stakeholders include any representation from coastal communities of Goa like fisher communities, Comunidades, Panchayats, farmers, tenants or any other traditional communities like toddy tappers, shell pickers, other tribal communities.
These stakeholders attended a meeting at NCSCM which is the central government accredited body entrusted with the Rs.2,78,45,751/- contract in 2016 (and 2018) to make the CZM Plan and Maps.
The minutes of the stakeholder meeting held on 21-22nd April 2017 at NCSCM in Chennai show that the attendees represented: NCSCM, Director of Science, Technology and Environment, GCZMA, Department of Survey and Land Records, Town and Country Planning Department, North and South Goa Planning Development Authorities, Fisheries Department, Tourism Department, Water Resources Department, Public Works department and Goa Tourism Development Corporation.
Feedback only from the favoured few?
Interestingly, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (which as per its FB page describes itself as “a non-profit, non Governmental organization dedicated to further the cause of healthy and positive tourism in Goa,”) in its letter to the Principal Secretary, Environment in April 2017 says among other things that “ All coastal villages having Tourism potential should be declared as CRZ II areas so that there can bring relief to these coastal villages for development of tourism and application of CRZ guidelines should be brought within the control of the State Government”. It goes on to ask the Government to incorporate the much criticized and legally challenged Regional Plan 2021 and allow development in all areas marked as “settlement” areas in this plan. It leaves little doubt as to what “relief” is being sought for the coastal villages by this body.
Even some individuals seem to have had the luxury of sending their feedback on these draft plans as in one case where an email with the subject line “Rectification of Draft Coastal Zone Management Plan with respect to survey no 94/2” has been forwarded to GCZMA by the Department of Science, Technology and Environment in the name of a person who is currently a sitting MLA.
It is indeed ironic that Government departments and other industry organizations seem to have been considered as the only “stakeholders” in this extremely important exercise which will define the fate of Goa’s coast and its people for many years to come. Even some crucial information shared by these Departments themselves finds no mention in the draft maps or the draft report. We can only guess whose inputs have actually been included.
Include, instead of excluding the
This begs the question – Who is responsible for these omissions and/or additions? Why wasn’t this opportunity to be part of the participatory planning process not given to indigenous stakeholders of Goa’s coasts and rivers?
Now, Goa’s Ministers and MLA’s are attempting to defend Goa’s coasts by demanding that their inputs and people’s inputs be taken in as “suggestions” and incorporated in the “revised draft”.
Annexure 1 of the CRZ notification 2011 clearly mandates engaging with traditional coast dependent communities. This means working on the ground with local bodies like the Grama Sabhas and associations of fishers, toddy pickers, khazans, farmers, tribals , comunidades etc who know this coast best has to be central to the drafting process itself.
This situation becomes even more complicated and seemingly unending in light of notification of “Guidelines For Updation Of Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) Prepared As Per CRZ Notification, 2011 To Align It With CRZ Notification, 2019” on June 28, 2019. These guidelines require that CZMP approved based on CRZ 2011 be reviewed and aligned with the conditions of 2019 notification within the next six months following all due process and 2011 baseline data. Given that Goa’s CZMP is still confined to the drawing board, this quick updation seems unlikely.
The coasts of Goa have been facing serious threats over the last few decades. These threats are not limited to those of erosion, pollution, sea level rise and extreme climate events. They include the take over of the coasts for various infrastructure and development projects and policies like the Sagarmala Plan for Port led development, the Bharatmala coastal road plan, the Inland Waterways Act for facilitating nationalization of rivers and last but not the least the thrust on Blue economy which includes Tourism and mechanised fisheries.
This is precisely why Goa is in dire need of a robust, inclusive, sustainable, rights based Coastal Zone Management Plan which includes accurate maps. Alas, they seem to be nowhere in sight though our public money has paid for it.
Seen in the context of all the facts presented here, we are left with many troubling questions. The most important of which is: Who are the real stakeholders when it comes to Goa’s coastal resources according to the State and agencies involved?
Whatever happens next in this process of drafting this CZMP will give us the answer in no uncertain terms.