As the tourism season is approaching the tension is mounting amongst shack owners to start the shacks, but it looks like this year the task may not easy as the National Green Tribunal has stayed the implementation of the state’s shack policy as the state failed to submit its Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP). NGT has now directed Goa to submit its coastal plan by November 15th and based on that the future course of action will be decided.
According to the reports, the tourism season is knocking at Goa’s doors but the National Green Tribunal (NGT), has thrown a spanner in the works, and this could spell doom to the tourism industry ahead of the upcoming season.
Goa is the only state that has failed to finalize its CZMP and has now been warned of strict action by the NGT if the new deadline is not met.
The Goa government had filed a petition seeking a six-month extension to the deadline, but has only been granted an extension of 3 months and has been asked to submit a finalized Coastal Zone Management Plan by November 15.
The shack policy was stayed after Adv Raj Punjwani, appearing on behalf of Mehdad, pointed out that the Tourism Minister on August 30 announced that the Beach Shack Policy has been finalized and will be implemented, even as the CZMP is not yet in force.
He also added that the beach shacks come up in No Development Zones along the coastal belt, and the tribunal had granted an extension in the past and it was not justified that the State should ask for further extension.
Adv Ruchira Gupta, appearing on behalf of the State said explained to the NGT that the anxiety of the people due to demarcation of High Tide Line (HTL) and difficulty in reading and understanding the maps prepared by National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM).
She also said that the state endeavors to obtain the village, taluka and district-level maps from NCSCM.
Much as Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had warned that shacks would not come up on the beaches till the CZMP was finalized, during the monsoon session, this has come as a big blow to tourism stakeholders and beach shack owners.
This decision has sent waves of panic among the beach shack owners but the government is quick to allay their fears and said that it will file an affidavit before the National Green Tribunal seeking a relaxation given that shacks are purely temporary structures and that they are in place only for six to eight months a year.
Calangute MLA Michael Lobo who the constituency is likely to be hit the hardest said “We will file an affidavit before the NGT stating that the shacks are completely temporary. We will assure the NGT that the CZMP will be finalized by November without any extensions and that pending the finalization, the shacks should be allowed,”
Lobo further added that the shacks were important to welcome tourists to the state, be it domestic or international. Plus it also was a means of earning for the locals for those six months on which they rely to get by for the rest of the year.
The Leader of Opposition has urged the Chief Minister to try and resolve the issue stating that the stay on the beach shack policy by NGT will severely damage Tourism in Goa.
On August 30, the State Government approved the beach shack policy for three years for the period 2019-2022, for erecting temporary seasonal structures on Goa’s 105 km-long coastlines.
The Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar claimed that the government had done hard work of ensuring that the policy was approved by the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority prior to placing it before the cabinet.
The new shack policy allots 259 shacks in North Goa and 105 in South Goa. Out of these, 50% have been reserved for applicants with 10 years and more of experience, 40 % for applicants with 5 to 10 years of experience and 10% reserved for applicants with less than 5 years experience.
The Government has noted that there was a huge public outcry for the presentations and requests by local bodies that they are allowed to prepare their own CZMP.
The CZMP is pending since 2014 and has been largely delayed because of the absence in Governance over the last two years on account of Parrikar’s illness and later because of the political tug of war for power among the BJP and its allies. The CZMP has been affected the most by inaction on the part of the Government.