Demanding that a fresh draft coastal zone management plan be prepared through consultations with panchayats and local communities, the Pernem locals boycotted the public consultation meeting that was organised in Pernem, and being chaired by Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral, despite the assurance given by him to hold panchayat-level meetings on the draft CZMP.
Chaos prevailed at the government college in Pernem, the venue for taluka-level consultation meeting on draft CZMP, on Friday afternoon, as the locals came together and raised objection to it.
People from different parts of Goa had also gathered to raise their opposition to the meeting, which was a first consultation meeting on the draft CZMP. Various associations and NGOs extended their support to the locals as they raised their objection to the meeting.
Prominent local leaders – sarpanch of Arambol panchayat Daniel D’Souza who is also the chairman of Mandrem Coastal Belt Committee, Morjim sarpanch Vaishali Shetgaonkar, Mandrem sarpanch Pradip Hadfadkar, Keri sarpanch Ratnakar Harji, Agarwada – Chopdem sarpanch Amul Raut were present at the spot, and handed over a memorandum expressing their opposition to holding of consultation meeting for Pernem taluka, and demanded scrapping of the draft CZMP.
The memorandum was submitted to Deputy Collector Pernem Chandrakant Shetkar, however, no reply was received initially. Later, the gathered members were informed that the Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral was on his way to attend the meeting.
The people shouted slogans opposing the draft CZMP and demanded that it be scrapped. Raising the grievances of the locals from Pernem, the sarpanch of Arambol panchayat Daniel D’Souza informed the Environment Minister that “fishermen’s activities are not shown, even the paths to the Ganesh immersion sites and the chapels and crosses are not shown in the draft CZMP and Mandrem belt is shown as the turtle nesting site, which is not in the interest of locals.”
At this juncture, the Environment Minister told that “we are ready to amend the CRZ law, which needs to be done by the central government, for which we are ready to fight with the Centre. As the Environment Minister, I am holding the public consultations to take the public views to prepare the plan as per the wishes of the people of Goa, and for the same we shall seek the help of the central government. I am ready to fight with the Centre over the issue, and therefore, we are holding the consultations.”
The gathered people, however, were not convinced with the reply, and refused to attend the consultation meeting, and demanded scrapping of draft CZMP and holding of the meetings at the panchayat level for drafting new CZMP.
Several attempts on the part of the Environment Minister to convince the locals went in vain as the opposition continued.
The Minister told the gathered public that “until the doubts are not cleared, we will come back again and again.” He also clarified that it was the consultation meeting not the public hearing.
After struggling for almost an hour to convince the people to attend the meeting, the Minister and other officials walked into the meeting hall, and subsequently began with the presentation on draft CZMP.
Later, the gathered people gradually walked away from the venue without participating in the consultation meeting.
However, before moving away they told that “we will attend the panchayat-level meetings.”
They also invited the Environment Minister to join them during the panchayat-level meetings, and demanded that the government should provide a technical knowhow for drafting panchayat-level plan.