Coastal zone plan must accord with development and ecology
TEMPORARY shacks that have become synonymous with tourism in the state may not be allowed in the upcoming tourist season. The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) has decided not to consider applications to permit erection of shacks in view of direction from the National Green Tribunal to stay the shack policy approved by the state government. The NGT has directed the GCZMA that no permissions be granted for erection of temporary shacks, tents or huts till the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of the state is finalised and approved by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The NGT has set November 15 as the date for finalisation of the CZMP. State Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral has been honest in admitting that it would be not be possible for the state government to meet the deadline set by the NGT, indicating that shacks may not be a reality unless the government or stakeholders get stay on the NGT order from the High Court or the Supreme Court.
Perhaps the shack owners would pay the price for the inability of the state government to finalise the CZMP in time and get it approved from central authorities. Apparently the state authorities did not pay the required attention in preparation of the plan and left it to scientists of Chennai based National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) to deal with the issue. The officials of NCSCM messed up the plan with faulty drawings. It is amazing to note that River Zuari was shown as River Mandovi in the draft plan prepared by the central agency. Besides, many other mistakes appeared in the draft plan leading to its finalization being delayed following objections from general public. The errors that appeared in the draft plan prompted people to dub the plan as farce and the authorities were forced to withdraw the process of finalization of plan after public hearings following public outcry. Though the dates for finalization of CZMP were extended from time to time by the NGT, the state failed to complete the process.
It was heartening to note that people and panchayats decided to voluntarily give their own suggestions in preparing the plan afresh. Many panchayats took help of experts in their areas in studying the plan while others approached government to help them understand the plan so that they could give their inputs in finalization of the plan. The government has since decided to depute its officials to explain the process involved in preparation of the plan. While some panchayats have given their suggestions others have failed to do so. The government has said that it feels that those panchayats that have not sought its help have accepted the draft plan and have no objection to its finalization in its present form.
The complacency on the part of authorities is to be blamed for the situation which the state finds itself. The situation could have been avoided had the officials and authorities concerned shown responsibility in overseeing the preparation of draft plan. It is apparent that they took the matter casually perhaps hoping that people would blindly accept the plan. The state government might have also not anticipated the NGT action for its failure to finalise the plan. The government has ruled out the possibility of seeking a review by the NGT bench. Since livelihood of hundreds of people would be affected if shacks are not allowed, the state authorities need to come out with a contingency plan soon. At a time when the state is facing severe unemployment problem denial of permission to run shacks would only aggravate the problem, which could lead to social unrest. The government must help the shack owners and get the NGT order modified. The cornered government has decided to fast track the process so that it could get the plan approved and notified by November 15 and come out of the messy situation. Since the new CZMP would have wide-ranging implications once finalized and approvedthe authorities should ensure that it was foolproof and that would not hamper shack businesses.