Goans must protect endangered species and eco-sensitive zones
Imposition of a huge penalty by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has driven the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) to start the process of removing the 171 illegal structures along the coast. The fine was imposed on the GCZMA for its failure to implement the NGT order of November 2, 2017 directing it to act against the illegal structures at the four turtle nesting sites in the state that were destroying sand dunes and sand vegetation. The GCZMA sat over the order for almost one and half years on one pretext or the other. It is believed that the GCZMA could not get the illegal structures demolished as their owners enjoyed patronage of politicians. The NGT took a very strong stance when the GCZMA failed to give an action taken report and directed them to deposit an interim environment compensation of Rs 1 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board within a week.
Most of these illegal structures are in no development zone, some around the turtle nesting sites on Morjim, Mandrem, Galgibaga and Agonda beaches. With the NGT coming down heavily, the GCZMA issued orders to the collectors of both the districts to act against the encroachers. To preempt any resistance from the owners of illegal structures the authorities made elaborate plans to carry out the orders with the help of police personnel. As had been the case in the past, sensing imminent demolition owners of illegal structures rushed to politicians, including Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to stop the action. However, this time their hopes of getting help from politicians were dashed with the GCZMA and collectors going ahead with the demolition. Now some of them have gone to the High Court which has granted stay on demolition. The next hearing is fixed on June 10. After that there would be monsoon.
That the GCZMA took the earlier directions casually could be made out from the fact that though full compliance was sought, the regulatory body placed on record only the steps taken in South Goa. Even that was found scrappy by the tribunal. Though the GCZMA informed the NGT that it had filed its report with regard to North Goa too, they could not give the tribunal any report. Obviously, the GCZMA wanted time till the end of the tourism season to act. The NGT said the North Goa report was nebulous and bereft of material particulars and the table filed along with the report demonstrated gross non-compliance. Taking serious note of the lapses, the NGT directed the GCZMA to show cause why appropriate directions be not issued for instituting disciplinary proceedings against all those responsible for failing to act in terms of the direction of the tribunal. The NGT has sought a compliance report from the GCZMA with respect to its latest directions within three weeks.
As the GCZMA has to act with the support of the collectors sooner or later it must make it sure that no amount of pressure from politicians or any organized group or lobby is able to stop the action. Goans of small and large means set up shacks and illegal structures along the coast to earn income. The government and the regulatory bodies such as the GCZMA should allow them to do so, but at the same time they should keep them out of the ecologically sensitive zones or designated places such as turtle nesting sites. Setting up and operating shacks along the coast is not a crime; only setting up and operating shacks in zones and sites that need protection and conservation is. Goans should set up their business along the coast only where the GCZMA permits them. Environment and ecology should not serve mankind; the mankind has to serve them. Politicians have a social responsibility of working for protecting of environment and endangered species. A lot of ecological wealth has already been lost to unplanned development and illegal activities in the coastal areas of the state. The onus of preserving what remains and regenerating the rest lies on the representatives of the people.