Former Minister and General Secretary of Goenchea Ramponkarancho Ekvott, Matanhy Saldanha termed the Draft CRZ Notification published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests a joke upon the coastal people.
Speaking to Goa Chronicle, Matanhy regretted that the main demand of the inhabitants of coastal regions of the country to protect their right to habitation and livelihood from the coastal environs, has not been addressed in the notification.
“The Minister for Forests and Environment held consultations with fishermen and other inhabitants involved in traditional occupations along the country’s coast and the strident demand at all these consultations was that their right to inhabit those areas and their right to livelihood should be enshrined in the Notification,” he said while pointing out that is not reflected in the notification.
While accusing the Minister of fooling the people, he also charged the bureaucrats who prepared the notification of being agents of vested interests.
“I say this because the notification, instead of strengthening the regime for protection of coastal areas, seeks to throw open the coast for commercial exploitation,” he said.
He listed out the various defects in the notification which could be exploited by vested interest to not only commercially exploit the coastland but also to displace and dispossess the local inhabitants who have been occupying those areas for centuries.
Matanhy strongly objected to the notification’s attempts to regularize all the violations of the earlier CRZ Notification that was published in 1991.
He also took strong exception to the introduction of ‘Hazard Line’ in the notification and warned that this would be tool that will be used to permit development even within the no development zone on grounds that there is no danger of undertaking such development.
As for Goa, the Hazard line would well spell doom to the cliffs and plateaus along the coastline, he warned while pointing out that most of these have already been purchased by real estate investors waiting for an opportunity to construct residential complexes therein.
Blanket sanctions given to setting up thermal and nuclear plants along the coastline were also not acceptable, he said. “It is indeed an irony that while admitting that 25 per cent of the country’s population live along the coastline, the government is permitting hazardous industries like nuclear plants in this densely populated areas,” he said.
He also objected to the various concessions sought to be given to ports and said that Mormugao Port Trust, which as it is, is not recognizing the State government, would use these concessions to steam roll its agenda much to the detriment of not only the local populace but also the environment.
“The entire expansion plan of MPT including the additional jetties, breakwaters, reclamation, etc. is bound to wreck havoc with Goa’s environment and adversely affect the two main rivers of Mandovi and Zuari,” he said.
He termed the special dispensation given to Goa under the notification as a mere eyewash and wondered why instead of merely mentioning that the khazan land has to be protected and no development should be allowed therein, the same was not classified as a Coastal Regulation Zone.
“As it is the various laws in force are aimed to protect the khazan land and not allow any development there and yet there are violations galore, so the situation is not going to change unless the khazan lands are brought within the definition of CRZ,” he said while adding that conversion of khazan land to other purposes like pisciculture should also be prohibited.
While asserting that he would be filing his objections to the notification he also urged the people of Goa to debate the Notification and specially the coastal villages to take it up for discussion at their gram Sabha.