Goa Minister Vishwajit Rane Scrapes Controversial Zoning Amendments

Goa's government has scrapped the draft building rules that would have paved the way for golf courses, film cities, and yoga center setups in Goa. Town and country planning minister Vishwajit Rane on Monday initially announced that he would keep the contentious norms in abeyance but backed down in the face of protests.
Vishwajit Rane
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Goa’s government has scrapped the draft building rules that would have paved the way for golf courses, film cities, and yoga centre setups in Goa. Town and country planning minister Vishwajit Rane on Monday initially announced that he would keep the contentious norms in abeyance but backed down in the face of protests.

The scrapping is being seen as a significant victory for citizens and green activists. Rane also announced that the TCP department has decided to scrap all approvals granted to applicants under Section 16B (change of zone) of the TCP Act.

Rane said that the department will file an affidavit before the Goa bench of the Bombay high court informing it about the policy decision. However, Rane intends to invite fresh applications under Section 16B.

“Keeping the TCP amendments in abeyance will create more doubt, so I have decided to scrap all the amendments,” said Rane. “The expert committee and the TCP board will discuss these same amendments, discuss with all stakeholders, bring them to the board and then take the process forward.”

The suggestion and objections submitted by the people would be examined by an expert committee chaired by Los Angeles-based city planner Vinayak Bharne he said.

Confederation of Indian industry chairperson Swati Salgaonkar will be vice-chairperson of the expert committee.

Rane stated, “I have sent an email to the head town planner stating that the change has to be withdrawn immediately. The draught amendments and the objections that have been made thus far will be presented to this committee by Rane, and depending on the findings of the expert committee, the revisions may then be redrafted and announced once more.

Transparency and the welfare of Goa are our primary goals, Rane stated. The reforms would also regularise unlawful structures and permit residential complexes on land that is zoned as industrial, as well as enabling a higher built-up area for luxury hotels and places designated as major business districts. The actions of the TCP department infuriated civic society, leading many to wonder about Rane’s intentions.

“My motives are not selfish,” Rane stated. “I have no personal agenda.” The minister also stated that final and provisional approvals granted under Section 16B of the TCP Act would be revoked. “As of today, there will be no valid Section 16B case.” “After that, we’ll ask the court for permission to reactivate Section 16B,” he said.

Earlier in the day, environmentalists and concerned citizens held a peaceful protest outside the TCP building against the draught regulations.

The Federation of Rainbow Warriors and other activists organized the protest. The activists claimed that the TCP department had no scientific basis for amending the regulations.

Several villages have also held gram sabha meetings in the last two weeks, during which locals have criticized the TCP department’s decision to encourage golf courses, film cities, farmhouses, and other megaprojects in the state.

Activists accused the government of proposing golf courses, film cities, and yoga centers in agricultural zones, as well as weakening laws to allow star hotels in the state without first assessing carrying capacity.

Additionally, they accused the government of establishing special economic zones with high FARs and of suggesting lowering the restrictions for new projects’ use of roads.

For attempting to legalize unlawful structures with built-up areas of up to 500 sq m, the government has also faced harsh criticism.

Instead of putting the state up for sale, activists had urged Rane and chief minister Pramod Sawant to resign.

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