‘Despite CRZ notification, built-up area along Goa’s coast grows manifold’: Study
Despite the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification being in force since 1991, which disallows any fresh construction up to 500 metres from the high tide line along the coast, Goa’s popular beach stretches have seen an increase in built-up area by as much as 20 percentage points since then, largely fueled by tourism, a study that analysed satellite imagery to track development along the coast has found.
The study, which was presented as a conference paper late last year, focused on two of Goa’s most populous talukas - Bardez that is home to beaches such as Candolim, Calangute and Anjuna and Pernem which is home to beaches like Morjim, Arambol and Tiracol - and has tracked reducing vegetation, water bodies and increase in the built-up area consisting of permanent residences, hotels, resorts, temporary tourist facilities, shacks, etc.
“The built-up has increased from 19.6% to 40.3% (as a percentage of the total area), from 1991 to 2019 within the 500mts buffer... (and) from 15.12% to 36.79% within the 200mts buffer from 2012 to 2019. This includes permanent residential houses, resorts and temporary shacks. Whereas the 50mts buffer from HTL shows built-up and vegetation as 36.79% and 36.91% respectively in the year 2019,” the study said.
The CRZ notification issued first in 1991 prohibited any construction between 200 metres from the coast which was to be considered a no-development zone and regulated construction between 200-500 metres from the coast.
Except for the reconstruction of preexisting structures belonging to the traditional fishing communities on the existing plinth, no other constructions were to be permitted.
This comes even as the Goa government delayed by more than six years the finalization of the Coastal Zone Management Plan and has now sought yet another month to complete the exercise.
The study further states that according to a host of people they interviewed, the increased built-up area would serve to destroy the tourist’s experience of the coast.
“With changing CRZ regulations, huge beach areas which today are public spaces will be used for commercialization under the banner of development. Tourists visit Goa for its beauty and open space where land meets the sea. If these spaces are taken over, the tourism industry which survives on natural beauty will be at stake as beaches will be already crowded. Neither tourists nor locals will have proper access to the beaches. The coast as a resource will not remain sustainable in future,” the study stated.
Speaking to HT, Goa environment minister Nilesh Cabral admitted that there were “a lot” of coastal CRZ violations.
“There are a lot of violations but we are acting and demolishing them as and when they are detected. People (the violators) also approach the courts and secure a stay on demolitions. But we have taken action against even big violators and resorts,” Cabral said.
“A part of the problem is up to now we have been relying on the 1996 CZMP (Coastal Zone Management Plan) for which detailed scaled maps are not available. Once we are done with the current process of finalizing the CZMP plan for the CRZ 2011 then we will have a base on which to tackle violators,” Cabral said.
“The government intends to have real-time monitoring of at least some portion of the coast that is prone to violations using satellite imagery for which we have to finalise the current plan first,” he added.
Gaps in coastal regulation in Goa has for long been marred by patchy enforcement despite repeated adverse orders from the Bombay High Court at Goa.
As far back as 2009, the Bombay High Court at Goa initiated a suo moto petition against illegal constructions along the coast and had asked coastal panchayats to detail what actions they propose to take against the violators.
More recently, the High Court noted “an extremely disturbing feature as to how constructions are put up in CRZ areas without bothering to obtain any permissions from any authorities and thereafter some sort of immunities are claimed based on the completion of such constructions at breakneck speeds” by taking advantage of lax enforcement.
This the High Court said was possible because the violators “are firmly convinced that as long as they race to complete the illegal construction and occupy the same, the law will never be able to catch up with them. The attempt thereafter is to institute all sorts of proceedings and delay the action against the wholly unauthorized construction put up in an eco-sensitive zone without seeking permissions from any authorities.”
The NGT too had called for an ‘effective monitoring mechanism.’
“We may add that the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) appears to be working only based on complaints against illegal structures and a large number of illegal structures continue to exist despite the directions of the High Court… It may be desirable to have an inventory prepared in respect of such structures based on an independent annual survey, to be updated periodically to avoid selective action against the violations of the CRZ,” the NGT bench led by chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel, said. “An effective monitoring mechanism needs to be set up by GCZMA to advance the rule of law,” the NGT bench added.