A number of village groups, largely from south Goa and Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA), met last Sunday in Margao to call for a united front to discuss and address illegal development taking place in their villages.
The major problems that came to fore over the two-hour long meeting were destructive large-scale construction projects being rushed before the finalisation of the Regional Plan 2021 flouting land use plans and desired FAR (floor area ratio), and degeneration of gram sabhas where neither processes are not being followed despite resolutions defined by the Panchayati Raj Act.
The meeting convened by GBA – a people’s movement organised by concerned citizenry and NGOs that had in 2007 managed to upturn the controversial Regional Plan 2011 – was attended by representatives of Save Our Slopes (SOS), Chicalim Village Action Committee, Carmona Citizens Forum, Ganv Ghor Rakhan Manch, Zagrut Raikaranso Manch, Keri Nagrik Kriti Samiti, South Goa Collective Peoples’ Voice and representatives of the villages of Cansaulim, Chinchinim, Raia, Loutolim, Benaulim, Sancoale, Colva and Chimbel.
Amongst the non-inclusive large projects impacting the villages, another commonality that emerged was of fraud perpetrated by elected bodies, wherein they had replaced village plans submitted by the Regional Plan Village Committees and endorsed by gram sabhas, with the result that dual maps had been submitted to the Town and Country Planning Department. In the case of Raia and Cansaulim, despite the village opting for VP3 status, the document had been re-done by the panchayat bodies indicating VP2 or higher, which means allowing more built up area amongst other changes.
Speaking at the meeting, Geraldine Fernandes representing Benaulim said, “Water and electricity are the greatest problems that occur in the villages during the tourist season. Now, they are planning to build a football ground in an agricultural area in Benaulim. If children don’t get food to eat, how will they get the energy to play?” Edwin Mascarenhas of SOS added that current development was creating houses without people when there are people without houses. “Can the existing infrastructure support this kind of development? It’s unjust and doesn’t reflect the people. Goa seems to be becoming just a big garbage tank.”
The key issues that emerged were the need to protect the ecology and identity of Goa in the wake of the Regional Plan 2021 and that the government put into effect capacity building in accordance with the Panchayati Raj Act and discourages deliberate chaos.
The next meeting will be held in Panjim next week with village groups from north and south to plan further course of action.
(Under the aegis of CSE fellowships)