Forget sea front, it’s river front violations now

 

Away from the bustling sea front, Goa's estuarine areas are turning out to be unexplored frontiers of CRZ violations, as the government is yet to map the illegal structures within the 100-metre no development zone (NDZ).
 
The governement has shied away from carrying out a survey of the encroachments along the river banks despite a court directive. All tidal stretches of the state's nine rivers are covered under CRZ-III.
 
In July 2007, the directorate of survey and land records (DSLR) had completed survey maps showing the structures on the coast, existing prior to 1991 and those built later. "The court had also directed the state government to carry out a similar exercise to identify illegal structures along the river front," Norma Alvares, an environmental lawyer said.
 
As per the order of Bombay high court at Goa on September 16, 2008, the DSLR had to map the ground details of structures in the NDZ of rivers in a survey, commencing from October 1, 2008 till December 31, 2009. "The Goa coastal zone management authority (GCZMA) asked for an extension and time was again granted till December 31, 2010. A compliance report was to be filed on or before January 10, 2011, but it is yet to be filed," Alvares said.
 
Though the bulk of violations may pale into insignificance as one turns from sea towards the rivers, allegations are rife over several violations for illegal jetties, ramps, landing points, constructions and other encroachments. The length of the Mandovi river from Panaji to Ganjem, Usgao, is one such stretch that is dotted with encroachments in CRZ. Many shipyards have been set illegally in the Quelossim-Loutolim belt along the Zuari river.
 
"The activities are permissible, provided they obtain approval," a GCZMA member said. A writ petition filed against the illegal shipyards is pending before Bombay high court at Goa.
 
Large stretches of mangroves had been cleared and ramps extended into the river, narrowing its course, says Carmen de Miranda of village groups of Goa, a NGO. "The previous panchayat leaders allowed the shipyards by issuing approvals without any other permissions," she alleged.
 
One of the writ petitions seeking reliefs on CRZ violations pertained to the state government's move to curtail the NDZ area from 100 m to 50 m in 1994. But the Supreme Court allowed the Goa foundation petition and struck down the state NDZ relaxation along rivers and restored the 1991 setbacks.
 
Another petition filed by the same NGO before Bombay high at Goa around 1998 succeeded in activating the DSLR survey on the coast. Large-scale violations in the 200m NDZ in Canacona was the main issue of the petition. Taking note of the spate of coastal encroachments, the court directed DSLR to conduct survey for protection of the CRZ from illegal constructions.
 
Later, the attention turned to the riverfront and the high tide along the estuaries was marked in 2008. But five years later, the mapping of structures is yet to be done.
 
But some officials suggest a more humane view of the construction activity along the river front. "A sizeable number of houses are traditional ones and the illegalities pertain to extensions done by families growing out of their present dwellings," an official said.
 
But when pointed out that a few commercial structures have also come up in the CRZ, the official conceded that there are many constructed in violation of the rules.
 
GCZMA member secretary, Levinson Martins said there are no statistics of illegal constructions in CRZ III.
 
"But we have initiated action in whatever complaints we have received and issued notices," he said. But he could not provide details of the number of notices and status of the process. [TOI]