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Goa drops move to urbanise heritage church complex

Panaji: Amid vociferous protests from the opposition as well as heritage conservationists, the Goa government has backpedaled from its proposed move to include an area housing a 17th century Old Goa Church complex under an urban planning authority.

Critics of the move to include Ela village near Panaji, which is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site, under the Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority of Goa, had alleged that it would facilitate construction of high-rise buildings in close proximity of the Church complex dedicated to the patron saint of Goa ‘St. Francis Xavier’.

“I have also taken into consideration the sentiments expressed by religious bodies and had discussed the issue with the Chief Minister and in order to maintain the sanctity of shrine, came to the conclusion that the proposal of further extending the Kadamba Planning area need to be scrapped,” Deputy Chief Minister who holds the Town and Country Planning portfolio Chandrakant Kavlekar said on Wednesday.

All opposition parties in Goa, including the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Goa Forward had opposed the decision, even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs had also expressed reservations to the Chief Minister vis a vis the much criticised move.

Former Deputy Chief Minister and president of the Goa Forward party Vijai Sardesai had also written to Paris-based Mechtild Rossler, director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Centre, urging the body to leverage pressure on the Goa government to drop the administrative move.

Construction of the Old Goa Church complex was completed in the 17th century. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the Church complex, which is located around 10 km from Panaji.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, which is the key heritage building in the complex, also holds the relics of Fr. Francis Xavier, a Spanish Saint, who died in the mid 1500s.

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