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Remaking Coastal Whole

State cannot move without taking coastal people on board

THE Goa government might not find it easy to make the people accept Coastal Zone Management Plan 2011. People from various parts of Goa have raised serious objections to CZMP 2011. They point to gross errors in the mapping of coastal land and resources by the agency that was given the work of drawing the plan. That the government is going to meet serious opposition is clear from the fact that the ‘presentations’ made by it at Pernem and Canacona last weekend failed to convince the people. For a Coastal Zone Management Plan to work, first the picture of the state of the coastal parts should be clear to the people. Then only a clear discussion can take place between the government and the various stakeholders. The government needs to remember that the uproar over absurd and misleading mapping in the plan is not going to die down.   

It would be wrong to see those raising objections to CZMP 2011 as the usual bunch of naysayers. Even ordinary villagers in the coastal parts know what resources are there in their villages. The government would find it nearly impossible to implement any CZMP without taking the people on board. The people in the coastal parts are not anti-development. They have their own requirements for drawing sustenance out of the environment in which they live. The efforts of the government should be to take them along. They are aware the coastal ecosystem is under threat and needs protection. This ecosystem includes coastal lands and saline, brackish and fresh waters and a river drainage system which all are an integrated system. This integrated ecosystem also includes the coastline, the beaches, dunes, islands and headlands and habitats of coastal wildlife and marine plants.

Both the government and the people know that the coastal ecosystem can only survive if all the parts of the whole survive and thrive in an interrelated environment. If you take out one part of a car, the car will not run. It is the assembly of the parts that makes the car go on running, at whatever speed you want. You can go to a movie, for shopping or for a long journey if all the parts of the car are working in interrelation. Both the government and the people have been responsible for causing the disappearance of some parts of the coastal whole – the government, for the most parts, the people only nibbling at them. Now, both the parties have to sit down and draw up a CZMP that rebuilds the lost parts and restores the wholeness of the coastal ecosystem. They have to appreciate that tourism is economically indispensable for both of them; it generates revenue for public exchequer; and it generates income for the people and provide employment for local people. Likewise, housing is a common need and people living in coastal villages cannot be forced to migrate to hinterland to build an extra room or story or flat. Yet all that must be done without damaging the coastal ecosystem.

What powers the people’s objections to the CZMP is the fear of unbridled commercialization of the land and water resources in the coastal zone. The government cannot make them partners in the CZMP unless they are able to convince them that it is equally interested in sustainable management of the coastal resources, that the plan would not allow any damage to any existing part of the coastal ecosystem, that, on the contrary, the plan would work towards rebuilding, regenerating, reviving and reanimating the damaged or lost parts of the whole of the coastal ecosystem. Thanks to the rapacity of politicians of all shades, the government of Goa lacks the credibility to convince the people about their ‘pious’ intentions, as in the past government approvals of many kinds have not been very particular about saving the vital parts of the coastal ecosystem. Money for the government and themselves has mattered more than the health of the coastal ecosystem and the health of the plant, animal and human lives that depends upon it. We think the people would not come on board unless the government opts for local community participation in the management of coastal ecosystems.

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