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House passes bill allowing ecotourism projects in ESZs

NT NETWORK

PANAJI
Amidst yet another walkout by the Opposition, the state assembly on Friday passed an amendment bill allowing ecotourism projects in the eco-sensitive zones of wildlife sanctuaries of the state.
The bill was relating to the ordinance promulgated by the government in November seeking amendment to the Goa Town and Country Planning Act 1975.
The amendment bill has inserted new Section 42 A in the Act for facilitating ecotourism activities.
Section 42 of the Act says that “every land use, every change in land use and every development in the area covered by the development plan shall conform to the provisions of this Act and the development plan as finally approved by government under Section 36…”
The amendment added to this original clause permits any applicant to start ecotourism activity as permitted in the eco-sensitive zone notification of the Centre.
“We are not permitting any ecotourism activity beyond what the (Union) ministry of environment and forests has specified in its notification,” clarified Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza.
The amendment primarily allows the developer to use the land for ecotourism without obtaining any conversion of land or any change of zoning or change of land use.
While the landowner needs to have minimum 20,000 sq mts of land, not more than 5 per cent of such land can be used for ecotourism. There is no upper limit for the land specified in the bill.
The amendment bill makes it mandatory to obtain prior approval of the state-level eco-sensitive zone monitoring committee, and also construction licence from the village panchayat.
Congress MLA Alex Reginald Lourenco opposed the inclusion of the Section 42 A.
D’Souza asked Lourenco why he was demanding scrapping of the bill since it has nothing more than addition of Section 42 A to the act, Lourenco responded alleging that the bill was brought to benefit two-three projects including Vanxim project.
However, the Deputy Chief Minister clarified that neither Vanxim project nor Terekhol project come under this bill.
D’Souza maintained that the bill was brought to send a positive message to the tourism industry, adding that not a single project has been approved in the last two months.
Expressing his apprehensions, Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte said land developers may take advantage of this amendment and damage the eco-fragile system in the no-development zone of the sanctuaries.
Both Lourenco and Khaunte demanded that the bill be referred to the select committee; but it was not accepted by Speaker Anant Shet.
The Opposition MLAs blew a fuse when BJP MLA from Panaji Sidharth Kuncolienkar thundered that the MLA should come prepared before making a point in the House.
Khaunte objected to the Kuncolienkar’s statement, creating ruckus in the
House.
The Speaker put the amendment moved by Lourenco for voting.
The Opposition MLAs staged a walkout from the House as the Speaker did not agree to the vote division as demanded by Lourenco.
Meanwhile, the House also passed the City of Panaji Corporation (amendment) bill, 2016 and the Goa municipalities (amendment) bill, 2016,
without the presence of the Opposition.

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