Activists and environmentalists pointed to several discrepancies in Goa’s controversial coastal zone management plan draft during Thursday’s much-delayed public hearings, with many saying it was unlikely to protect and restore the coast.
“The plan contains several omissions of fishing villages, fishing sites and traditional access routes to the coast have not been shown. We demand that plans submitted by coastal villages which accurately reflect local knowledge, be accepted and incorporated into the final plan, ”said Abhijit Prabhudesai, an activist.
The plan, which is a statutory document as part of the 2011 Coastal Regulatory Zone notification, was initially expected to be ready by 2015, but experienced several delays forcing the National Green Tribunal to ban new permits for coastal development. or businesses until the plan is finalized. .
Environmental activist group Goa Foundations said the project contained “no management plan for sand dunes anywhere, no management plan for turtle nesting beaches, no management plan for Khazan lands.” [and] no management plan for mangroves.
“The local communities to which the notification was designed and intended to benefit were not consulted in its preparation. They are now being asked to approve the draft prepared by experts who have little credible knowledge of local conditions and who have made huge mistakes. The draft plan therefore focuses only on geomorphological descriptions of the coastal area, ”said the Goa Foundation, which abstained from participating in the public hearing, but submitted written comments.
Among the main complaints, activists said that the Khazan lands of Goa, which is a complex system of lowlands inundated during high tides, were only partially marked or mistakenly classified in different villages.
“A Khazan management plan should have been in preparation from January 2011. This has not been done anywhere and the Ministry of Environment and the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority should be held criminally responsible for this failure, ”said the Goa Foundation.
According to Dr. Antonio Mascarenhas, a scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography, the plan misses a policy of conserving the dunes, including its management, restoration and reconstruction.
“A robust CZMP must contain a dune conservation and restoration package,” he said.
Activist Avinash Tavares claimed only a fraction of the total sand dunes were on the plan, leaving others open for construction and destruction along the coast.
“The sand dunes featured in the CZMP project are just a subset of the total number of sand dunes in Goa. Sand dunes shown are those that have not been covered with vegetation, landscaping, encroachment of temporary or permanent structures, and areas where the owner has applied for a development permit. All coastal sand dunes and sand dune areas must be shown despite any legal / illegal structure before and after 1991, ”he said.
Stakeholders also highlighted the omissions of other marine ecosystems ranging from coral reefs to turtle nesting sites.
“The CZMP maps did not include all areas of Goa known to support coral reefs, including areas north of Grande Island and around Pequeno Island. Turtle nesting sites did not. This is of particular concern as the identification of these sites will determine the type of development allowed in their vicinity, ”a group of researchers said in their submission.
They called for the creation of specific management plans for each ecosystem that take into account the ecological value as well as the use of these systems by the different stakeholders.
“We suggest that the following ecosystems be included: coral reefs, seagrass beds, dolphin feeding sites, rocky intertidal areas, areas dominated by algae, and important bird habitats. Each of them is important to the state’s ecology and biodiversity, and many can be easily degraded and over-exploited. We recommend that when drafting these plans, all stakeholders, including tourism operators and researchers, be widely consulted, ”they added.
Activists and environmentalists who attended the hearing alleged that the
two sessions held simultaneously in north and south Goa seemed more of an official formality than a sincere attempt to hear public opinion.
While only 45 of the more than 700 registered could speak at the hearing in South Goa, in North Goa, the hearing ended well after midnight with speakers having no more than 15 minutes. each.
“To add to that, so many speakers just couldn’t go on to this end. It looks like they just wanted to tick a box and say the hearing was over. The contempt for the people of Goa and the people of Goa was evident, ”said activist Albertina Almeida.