Special Correspondent

Activists demand that the Government's flying squads be available after office hours

Total freeze on constructions in eco-sensitive zones marked in RP 2021 demanded

PANAJI: Goan activists and village groups are bracing for a showdown with the State Government over its land-use plan.

Recent orders and circulars issued by the State Government have left activists unhappy.

After a review of these orders here on Thursday, the Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA), a body spearheading the movement for an appropriate land-use plan for the coastal State, called for a meeting with villagers to decide the future course of action.

Articulating the simmering discontent among the people, Sabina Martins of GBA pointed out that the Government had constituted flying squads to stop the illegal hill-cutting and filling of low-lying areas. However, the flying squads were available only during office hours, she said.

The GBA demanded that the squads work 24x7 as the illegal activity took place at all hours.

Regional Plan 2012

The GBA also demanded a total freeze on constructions in eco-sensitive zones marked in the draft Regional Plan 2021 (RP 2021). The RP 2001, which is now operational, lists “cultivated fields” as eco-sensitive zones, allowing scope for construction if a person intentionally keeps a field uncultivated, Ms. Martins noted.

On the issue of the Government's continued silence over keeping some of the Outline Development Plans (OPDs) outside the purview of the RP 2021, Ms. Martins questioned the motive behind the government order to formulate a Comprehensive Development Plan.

She reiterated the GBA demand that all ODPs be part of the RP 2021 and guidelines on eco-sensitive zones be applicable to ODPs.

The activists have been unhappy over what they allege is the Government's continued dragging of its feet over the completion of RP 2021 despite Chief Minister Digambar Kamat's assurances to expedite the work.

“Although the Government had assured us that a fortnightly report on the progress of RP 2021 would be given, no report has been made public. The two taluk plans were supposed to be made public every month, but, even after three months, the plans are not out,” said Ms. Martins.

The review meeting observed that though the Government had announced the formation of a committee to review the State Town and Country Planning Act (TCP), no headway had been made.

“The copy of that order was not made available. No progress has been reported in the committee's first meeting to review the Goa TCP Act, 1974, in order to replace it with an Act in sync with Article 243," activists said.

The group hailed the Government order to constitute a heritage committee in response to the demand to protect heritage structures. However, they regretted that no representation was given to heritage activists.