BY FLYNN REMEDIOS: The Goa Citizen’s Action Forum (GCAF) today claimed that Goa TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai and CM Manohar Parrikar acting along with Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and BJP National President Amit Shah are behind the sinister move to relocate and shift the Goa bench of the NGT to the northern zone and the modification of the jurisdiction of the Pune bench of the NGT by the MoEFCC.
GCAF spokesperson Firoz A Khan speaking to IndiaScribes.com alleged that both TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai and CM Manohar Parrikar have jointly got over Rs 500 crore in the last 2 months from the Hotels, Casino and Construction and Builder lobby for the same to put an end to the opposition by ‘Goan Greens’ to hospitality, entertainment and rampant commercial construction projects in the State.
The proximity of the NGT, Pune which was only about 8-10 hours journey from Goa even by road, was a blessing for Goan environmentalists and a huge thorn in the side of the builder and construction lobby, stated Khan.
Incidentally, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has more than once in the past alleged that activists had been plaguing Goa’s development by constant petitioning in the NGT.
Recently even Nitin Gadkari stated that some people in Goa do not want development. BJP National President Amit Shah has also been critical of ‘green activists’ in Goa, who according to him are hampering the industrialization of the State.
Meanwhile according to a Times of India, report, over 20 environmental organizations and activists chalked out a strategy over the state’s inclusion in national green tribunal’s (NGT) northern zone, even as some termed it as a ‘special status for Goa’, while others said it was the central goverment’s war on environmental justice.
The activists met at Chicalim on Sunday evening and condemned the move of ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) to group Goa in the distant northern zone in Delhi.
The Pune bench, which currently hears around 40% cases from Goa, has been excluded for these activists, though more convenient, sources said.
“We have chalked out the strategy and we will spell our plans tomorrow,” an activist said. “This move is akin to ignoring and removal of statehood status of Goa, and placing it directly under control of the Centre once again,” Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA) stated. Terming it as illogical, GBA alleged that it has has been done to thwart Goans from accessing environmental justice in an affordable way.
It is also to pave the way for massive and damaging planned projects in collusion with the state government that has shown interest in building a slew of multi-lane highways, many that will slice through Goa’s green zones, and the government is still keen on making Vasco port a coal trans-shipping hub, GBA stated.
Federation of Rainbow Warriors, another NGO, also slammed MoEF for giving Goans the “special status” of travelling to Delhi for environmental justice.
Goa is suffering the greatest destruction of environment among other states. The number of cases filed by Goan activists in Pune, including illegal dredging of Vasco bay, Mopa airport environmental clearance, national highway works without environmental impact assessment, violations of CRZ and forest laws proves this, the group stated. A few organizations criticized the ministry’s move to exclude Goa from the Pune bench of NGT, reports TOI.
Terming the government’s move to place the tribunal beyond the people’s reach as being serious and unconstitutional, GBA pointed out that the NGT Act 2010, is visionary in its implementation, empowering people to access environmental justice like the RTI and Consumer Forum. It deals with all Central Environmental Acts and ever since 2013, it had become popular with those opposing ill-conceived development in Goa. Some even argued their own cases in the interest of the environment, it said.
ANI reports that the relocation of the Goa bench of the National Green Tribunal from Pune to New Delhi by the Union Environment and Forests Ministry has irked the Opposition and green activists here.
Congress state chief Shantaram Naik told a press conference in Panaji that vested interests had forced the central government to shift the bench to the national capital to discourage activists in Goa from filing petitions.
“Pune was a short distance away. Now they will have to travel to Delhi. Vested interests are behind this decision. They want to discourage activists and opposition from challenging projects which are environmentally damaging to Goa,” Naik told ANI.
The Federation of Rainbow Warriors, a collective of green NGOs, said: “Goa Government uses every crooked method available to hasten the destruction, such as their sly attempt to transfer the Mopa (new greenfield airport) matter to Delhi without informing us, which failed due to diligence of the appellants. The transfer of Goa matters to Delhi is another step.”
According to the Ministry’s August 10 notification, Goa which was earlier in the West zone along with Gujarat and Maharashtra, has now been relocated to the North zone, while Gujarat and Maharashtra stay put in the West Zone, whose bench is in Pune, reports ANI.
Girish Chodankar told Navhind Times: “The NGT at Pune has served the interest of Goa very well in terms of accessibility and proximity. This decision (to move it to Delhi) has the blessings of Parrikar and motivated by forces out to destroy Goa and Goemkarponn (Goaness). It is surprising that Gujarat and Karnataka continue to be with the Pune bench and Goa which falls in western region and comes much closer to Pune has been put under the Delhi bench. The shift has no rational basis and smacks of ulterior motives. The silence of Parrikar and so-called ‘Goemkarponn’ politicians speaks for itself,” Congress Panaji by-poll candidate Girish Chodankar said.
Speaking to Navhind Times, Chodankar said, “Looking at the percentage of litigations filed before the NGT, Goa needs a separate bench for speedy and smooth disposal of grievances of Goa and Goans.”
The Goa government by and large is against environmentalists. We should have a bench in Goa.” Shantaram Naik said the central government’s notification is illogical and malicious considering the distance between Goa and Delhi.
He sought to know the state government’s role in change of Goa’s jurisdiction from the Pune bench of the NGT.
“What is the motive behind this notification? It is the duty of (Union) environment ministry to explain to the people of Goa… You cannot just issue a notification at your whims and fancies. I would like to know whether the ministry of environment and forest has taken the consent of the Goa government in this regard because without the approval of the state they cannot take any major decision,” he said.
with inputs from NT, TOI, ANI and IANS