The people of Tiracol will not give up their land without a fight. Civil society is with them in this fight against Leading Hotels.
The St Anthony Tenants and Mundkar Association (SATMA) of Tiracol has come out strongly against the environmental clearance granted to the 18-hole golf course and ecotourism resort project by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.
When the matter of tenancy rights is in the high court it is “completely wrong” to grant the project environmental clearance (EC) said the association that is opposing the project. They further alleged “connivance” and “unholy nexus” between the project proponent, Leading Hotels Limited, and the government.
“We have challenged government appointed inquiry officer Agnelo Fernandes’ report, which states that the land in question is tenancy free. The high court had issued a notice to the government with regards to the petition filed in this matter by Goa Foundation,” president of the association and the party to the Goa Foundation petition, Francis Rodrigues told TOI.
The association comprises a body of tenants fighting for their tenancy rights.
Sources said the government authority in 2013 had granted EC to the project, which was challenged before the National Green Tribunal (NGT). In 2016 the developer was directed to ask for a fresh EC after submission of all the approvals.
“Tenancy still exists. We have all the documents, including sanads and the purchase orders to prove our tenancy rights. We will produce these before the NGT,” Rodrigues said.
Rodrigues said three fresh petitions will be filed before the high court — by the association, Goa Foundation and a few tenants who gave a negative declaration — to expose the gross violations of the agricultural tenancy rights.
The association’s legal advisor, advocate Prasad Shahapurkar said the land in question is still tenanted and cannot be converted for commercial use and added that as such, an EC cannot be granted.
Stating that the granting of the EC was not a set back to their fight, Shahapukar told TOI that granting of the EC is a normal project approval procedure.
“We are still fighting for our tenancy rights and the matter is in the court. We will study the EC permission,” Shahapurkar said, adding that the association would file an intervention petition in the petition by the Goa Foundation to collectively fight the tenancy rights battle.
In July 2017, the environment ministry had received a recommendation from an expert appraisal committee for clearing the project. The ministry has granted the EC under provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
In 2013, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority had granted the 18-hole golf course clearance, which was later kept in abeyance by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
In case of any change in the scope of the project, a fresh appraisal will be required, director of the Union ministry of environment Kushal Vashist said.