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Tampering With CRZ

There is enough land for industry and commerce across the state

THE Goa government is pleading with the central authorities for relaxations on coastal regulation zone restrictions on the ground that the state has no more than 250 sq km of area for industrial and commercial development. The implication is that if some of the land locked under CRZ is not released the state would not be able to attract investors. However, industry stakeholders have pointed out that that cannot be the case. They have strongly opposed the government’s plan to tamper with the land along the coast. They say that the proposal to reduce the area under CRZ was ill-advised as it would trigger ecological damage. They have made it clear that they were not looking for land along the coast for setting up new plants. Though they were aware of the land constraint in the state they would not like to use coastal zone land for industrial purposes. That is something the panchayats and groups of local people that have been opposing the Coastal Zone Management Plan must note with some pleasure. They have now ground to press the government not to go for relaxations in the CRZ.

Much like the panchayats and local people, the stakeholders in the industry want the government to use the land resources away from the CRZ that are available for development of industry and commerce. The state government could find at least ten lakh square metres of land for IIT in Sattari. Shortage of land is mostly in Verna, Kundaim and Pilerne industrial estates which have good infrastructure and are well connected and sought after by investors. However, there are other industrial estates where plots are vacant. Those lands have to be exploited by the government. Industrial estates in Dharbandora and Panchwadi have no takers for plots. Industries prefer land with good transport connectivity and infrastructure. The government’s task should be to improve infrastructure in order to make use of the existing land areas before talking of taking over land in the CRZ. If the government improves the infrastructure, the vacant plots in Dharbandora and Panchwadi industrial estates would be taken up by industries. It is unfair on the government part to seek more land out of CRZ when it has set up industrial estates without developing adequate infrastructure.

As the state seeks coastal areas for more land for industry and commerce, over 38 lakh square metres of land allocated to promoters of scrapped special economic zones lies blocked. The government has initiated steps to defreeze the land which could become a reality once all the formalities are completed. The SEZ land together with the Chimbel IT Park and the ESDM hub in Tuem and unused plots in various industrial estates would go a long way in meeting the land requirement of industrialists. Industries already established in the state and the potential investors would expect the government to improve the infrastructure in industrial estates. Goa is a small state; a lot of land is under forest; so the government has to be cautious and innovative about how best to use the existing land resources. Along with industrialists, the government should establish types of industry that are not very land consuming.

It is the hotel industry and the business activities related to coastal tourism that make heavy demands on the land within and outside CRZ. The state government has to make development plans in the coastal zone by taking all stakeholders, including the regulatory authorities and local people, into confidence. Just trying to make a case for amendment to the CRZ Notification 2011 by claiming that just 257 sq km area in the state was available for development is hard to justify. Panchayats and residents of several coastal villages have already expressed opposition to government plans. The state government should not try to ride roughshod over public sentiments. The coastal areas of the state are already overcrowded with hardly any scope for development. The development plans in the coastal parts must not be at the cost of ecological balance and of livelihood of local people. There are not many jobs being generated either in the private or the public sector in the state. It would be inhuman to destroy the livelihoods of local population under such conditions.

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