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Home / India News / Goa to push Centre for designation of low-lying lands as eco-sensitive zones

Goa to push Centre for designation of low-lying lands as eco-sensitive zones

They are facing a threat from breaches in the dykes allowing ingress of sea water as well as from reclamation for tourism purposes.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2019 01:16 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
Environmentalists have expressed the fear that the High Tide Line is being deviously shown further seawards in order to protect structures that would otherwise be marked  illegal.
Environmentalists have expressed the fear that the High Tide Line is being deviously shown further seawards in order to protect structures that would otherwise be marked illegal. (HT Photo)

The Goa government will write to the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) to designate low-lying coastal lands and mudflats ,known as “khazans,” as eco-sensitive zones, under the Coastal Zone Management Plan that is being drafted.

“All khazans, aquaculture ponds and salt pans should be demarcated and categorised as eco-sensitive zones.” Goa’s minister for environment Nilesh Cabral said on Thursday, adding that the state’s directorate of environment will approach the ministry on the matter .

The lands lying below sea level and protected from the sea by a network of dykes and tide gates have traditionally been used either as aquaculture ponds to breed fish and prawns in the monsoons or to plant rice during the winter growing season or to harvest salt in the summer.

They are facing a threat from breaches in the dykes allowing ingress of sea water as well as from reclamation for tourism purposes.

“We explained this issue to the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, but they told us that we would have to approach the ministry of environment and forests,” Cabral told reporters.

The Coastal Zone Management Plan is a mandatory requirement under the CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) notification with areas within 200 metres from the point of the highest water level during the yearly spring tide designated as eco-sensitive and earmarked as “no development” zones. Lands falling with 500 metres of the high tide line are earmarked as “regulated.”

Environmentalists have expressed the fear that the High Tide Line is being deviously shown further seawards in order to protect structures that would otherwise be marked illegal.

At an earlier public consultation, the environment minister was booed by environmental activists who disrupted the exercise, forcing him to leave the meeting.

Goa is the last state yet to approve its Coastal Zone Management Plan under the CRZ notification 2011 which has been pending since 2014.

An earlier draft plan placed before the government was rejected; the government told the NCSCM that the plan could not be finalised owing to discrepancies.

Cabral also announced that the government would be using drone cameras to identify and mark sand dunes to ensure that the plan being drafted is as accurate as possible.

In November 2017 the principal bench of the National Green Tribunal had directed the governments of all coastal states to “without further default and delay, submit Coastal Zone Management Plans to the {MoEF&CC} by April 30, 2018” and warned that “in the event any state government and union territory does not submit the plan, they shall be liable for exemplary costs of 5-lakh which should be recovered from the salary of the defaulting officer. The non compliance would invite action for violating the orders of the Tribunal.”

That deadline has long since passed. This is the latest effort by the Goa government to draft the Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect the coastline from further erosion.

Olencio Simoes, an environmental activist, said green activists only wanted an accurate plan that records all of Goa’s coastal features as well as the destruction that has been caused over the years.

“The coast is crucial for Goa’s economy both from a tourism and fishing point of view. The present plan has several coastal water bodies and lagoons missing from it. This needs to be verified through field visits, something the government doesn’t want to do. Once these are identified they can be restored,” Simoes said.