Tiracol villagers stop golf course from teeing off

Tiracol villagers came out of their homes on Wednesday night to stop work on a golf course. They alleged that 40 to 50 cashew trees had been felled by the developer, that he trespassed into a property and also cut part of a hill. The golf course, plans for which spread over 342 acres, will cover almost the entire village.

Villagers allege that the developer started construction of the access road in the property on Wednesday by leveling the land. They objected to this and under the banner of St Anthony Tenant Mundkar Association (SATMA) gathered late at night at the site and in the presence of police forced stoppage of the work.

"During the night, the builder encroached in property under survey number 6/1 and indiscriminately destroyed cashew plantations," SATMA member Agnelo Godinho said. "We all depend on the hill for our survival. We never thought our village would face such a tragedy. The government should investigate this and save us," he said.

"About 75% of Tiracol's population depends on the cashew plantation. We don't want any development, we want our nature to be retained," villager Michael Rodrigues said. "Today they have cleared cashew trees in one area. Tomorrow they will clear the rest. The government should stop this immediately," he added.

Keri sarpanch Francis Rodrigues said that violating all rules, the developer is trying to vacate tenants and grab their lands. "We do not mind eco-tourism projects, but a golf course is definitely not acceptable," Rodrigues, who is also SATMA president, said. "Hill cutting and large scale felling of trees undertaken is illegal. The panchayat has presently stopped the work," Rodrigues added.

Acting on the complaint filed by SATMA, Keri panchayat sent a notice to the developers ordering them to stop work.

The proposal to set up a PGA-standard gold course in Tiracol had been approved by the previous government. The developer has prepared detailed project and feasibility reports, which have been forwarded to the Union ministry of tourism for examination, under the large revenue generation scheme. [TOI]