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You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” This verse from the Bible, by and large, sums up the anger of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA). This anger was expressed in an order on the illegal construction of a jetty in the Chapora river at Siolim. The NGT while declaring that the permission granted by the GCZMA was not legally permissible noted, “we are constrained to record our serious concerns over the regulatory affairs of the GCZMA which is legally mandated to safeguard and protect the pristine coastal environment of Goa.” The NGO order expressed regret that orders issued by it from time to time were not complied with by the GCZMA.
What do you do when the government (in this case the water resources department) undertakes to construct an illegal jetty? Permissions were granted for renovating a bund and the department went on to build a jetty, for which 36 concrete piers were sunk in the bed of the river. The scope of the project was first estimated at Rs 2.5 cr. It was subsequently increased to Rs 9.8 crore. One does not have to be an IIT graduate to figure out that the government, in the name of repairing a bund was actually planning to illegally construct a mini port in the river. The GCZMA played a crucial role in camouflaging this illegal plan by not acting on complaints made to it. So it is not just the GCZMA that has lost its saltiness, but the government as well.
In June this year, the true nature of the project was brought home to the GCZMA is a report which stated that the construction of the jetty was in violation of the CRZ notification 2011. The report was tabled at a meeting of the GCZMA, but ignored and the project was allowed to continue until a petition was filed before the NGT.
When the government starts violating laws made to protect land resources and the fragile coast, it automatically loses the moral right to govern. It is this lack of adherence to the law that gives rise to opposition to projects. Till date the government has not clearly stated what it intends to construct at Siolim and why? Since plans have not been submitted and clearances not taken, the general public is left in the dark. This has given rise to allegations and fears that the jetty would be used as a berthing facility for off-shore casinos. But why should anyone believe assurances to the contrary given by a government which is guilty of violating laws it vowed to uphold? What this government needed was a hard punch and the NGT delivered it.