Statement of All Environmental, Planning and Other Civil Society Associations and Organizations from Goa on the occasion of World Environment Day, June 5, 2023

Civil society organizations from across the state of Goa have been anguished by the unprecedented changes and amendments to town planning laws – some executed, some proposed – by the State Govt during the past few months. After a series of meetings and discussions – culminating in the statement which they are issuing today – they strongly oppose these amendments to the TCP Act 1974 which allow arbitrary zoning changes in the Regional Plan, and to the Goa Land Development and Building Regulations, 2010 which seek to permit perverse variations in the building and construction regulations to favour private individuals and interests.

Large scale arbitrary changes made to the statutory Regional Plan of Goa 2021 under the garb of amending errors.

Sec. 17 (2) of the TCP Act which enables the government to change the land use of any plot in the statutory Regional Plan without calling for objections or studies, on the grounds that these are errors which need to be corrected, was notified as law on 2.3.2023.

Since zoning changes affect everyone, such changes cannot be allowed without public objections. The move by the Government to correct “errors” in the Regional Plan is suspect as most of the zone changes that are being allowed using this section (S. of 17.2) are large areas, which cannot conceivably be “errors”. Some of the changes allowed violate eco sensitive zones and some others were in fact rejected earlier (when proposed under Section 16B). What is alarming – and gives the game away – is that the errors are being noticed by private parties, a number of whom are developers and real estate agents / companies, speculating on land in Goa.

Secondly, piecemeal change to a Regional Plan which itself is only meant to indicate broad spectrum identification of zones is against basic planning norms and is simply not permissible as it destroys the integrity of the Plan and the perception envisaged by the planners when the plan was prepared and horizon year indicated.

Thirdly, it is surprising that errors are being noticed in the Regional Plan more than a decade after it was notified. If, indeed, there are errors on a large scale which are suddenly now being noticed, then it is time for a new Regional Plan to be drawn up which will make fresh allocations of space and rectify the errors, if any, that are seen in the present plan. Should the Government need to address any errors, it should be done in a holistic manner with the preparation of a new Regional Plan that goes through a proper process of updated data collection and a vision document.

The new Regional Plan 2030/40 must ensure total protection of paddy fields tenanted agricultural lands, eco zones around wildlife sanctuaries, khazan lands, all hill slopes in the state of Goa and other ecological assets including the Western Ghats. Besides environmental considerations, the regional plan must account for settlement areas based on scientifically derived population growth projections, essential infrastructure needs, and sustainable economic activities in order to prevent gentrification, haphazard and unplanned real estate development and other speculative, high-cost-low-benefit and unsustainable activities and projects many of which are beyond the carrying capacity of the area.

It is necessary that all departments provide up to date information on important features such as private forests, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, turtle nesting sites (Forest Dept), sand dunes, springs, wetlands, road networks (PWD), projected water supply to different areas (WRD), projected power needs and supply (Electricity Dept), agricultural areas and plantations (Agriculture Department), and the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan (Environment Department) before the new Regional Plan is drawn up so that the required infrastructure is in place to ensure that new developments do not inflict undue pressure on those already existing in these areas. We suggest that the data collected needs to be tied in with GIS mapping for greater accuracy which will clearly indicate steep slopes and other geographical and landscape features that need to be incorporated.

For this reason we demand that the draft new Regional Plan that may be drawn up shall be sent to each village Panchayat / Municipality indicating the existing density and the allowable density (based on infrastructure and projected population growth) for the Village Development Committees to prepare their local plans indicating areas for new settlement zones, village commons, recreational areas etc., and get all this ratified through the Gram Sabhas / peoples ratification as per the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment. Such involvement of local bodies will help identify any errors in the Regional Plan before it is notified and thus eliminate the need for amendments such as Section 17(2) in the TCP Act.

We also assure the Government that we are willing to assist with information related to the preparation of a new Regional Plan, should the Government in its collective wisdom deem fit.
On this World Environment Day, June 5th 2023, the groups assembled in Panaji state that they will oppose, tooth and nail, these arbitrary amendments and changes in the zoning of plots to suit private properties.

We have one demand today: No piecemeal changes to the Regional Plan 2021. Piecemeal changes are against the interests of planning in the State of Goa, as well as its ecology and environment. Goa’s civil society organizations are irrevocably opposed to any destruction of the state’s permanent ecological assets. If required, go in for a revision of RP 2021.

We therefore give notice to the Goa government of our firm resolve to oppose any changes that it has made / plans to make to the existing Regional Plan. There is already a challenge to Section 17(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act in the form of a PIL which the government must be aware of.

We warn persons who get the zoning of their plots changed under the garb of “errors” that they may be wasting their money and will likely get drawn into litigation for we are determined to defend our eco-sensitive zones and protect our ecological assets including hills, agricultural fields, khazans etc.

1. Goa Bachao Abhiyan
2. The Goa Foundation
3. Federation of Rainbow Warriors
4. Act for Goa
5. Save Panjim Group
6. Goyche Fudle Pilge Khatir
7. Kamarkhazan Tenants Association
8. Khazan Society of Goa
9. Peaceful Society
10. Colva Civic and Consumer Forum
11. Vivekananda Awareness Brigade
12. United Goans Foundation
13. Goenchi Mati Movement
14. Goa Rivers Sand Protectors Network
15. Save Old Goa Action Committee
16. Goa Green Brigade
17. United Porvorim Citizen’s Forum
18. Merces Welfare Manch
19. Amche Mollem Campaign
20. Chicalim Villagers Action Committee (CVAC)
21. Chicalim Bio-Crusaders
22. Tiracol Tenants and Munkars Association, Tiracol
23. Goencho Ekvott
24. Chicalim Youth Farmers Club
25. Goenche Ramponkarancho Ekvott
26. Calangute Constituency Forum
27. Diocesan Commission for Ecology
28. Goa Heritage Action Group
29. Cansaulim Villagers Action Committee
30. Morjim Sea Turtle Trust
31. Ocean Coastal and Ecological Alliance Network (OCEAN)
32. Old Cross Fishing Canoe Cooperative Society
33. Mog Foundation
34. Chimbel Gram Seva Kala Ani Sunskrutik Manch
35. Bailancho Saad
36. Earthivist Collective
37. Goa Heritage Action Group
38. Womens Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Goa Architects wing
39. Council for Social Justice and Peace
40. Carmona Villagers Social Welfare Forum
41. Moira Civic and Consumer Forum
42. Presentation Sisters
43. Global Shapers Panjim Hub
44. Mission Green Goa
45. Save Madei Save Goa Front
46. Progressive Front of Goa.