12 properties including 6 in Morjim village were changed from orchards to settlements within a month of notifying Section 17(2) of Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act. To the surprise of Goan, all the applicants are non-Goans and have questioned how the experts made such conspicuous errors when preparing a comprehensive plan. The amendment of Section 17(2) of the TCP act gives provision to rectify any errors in the regional plan and correction of incoherence in zoning proposals in the regional plan according to the rules made on this behalf
TCP Minister Vishwajit Rane informed that there has been no sign of California-based city planner Prof. Vinayak Bharne to guide the TCP department. Franky Monteiro, member of Village Groups of Goa said that it is not an error to keep vast areas as Orchards and eco-sensitive zones. “Such errors can happen in densely populated areas where there are houses and developed areas. But what the TCP department has done now is deliberate and land changes have been affected for a premium,” he said.
17(2) of the TCP amendment is against the planning and the well-laid-down norms of city and urban plans according to Tulio D’Souza, former chairman, Institute of Architects. “The amendment allowing the government to change the land from orchard and cultivatable areas to settlements is going to disturb the current plan and safeguard to protect the green areas, hilly slopes, and all other eco-sensitive areas,” said Tulio.
Orchards constitute 78% of the total area meant for zone change while the rest is made up of paddy and natural cover. Activist Solano D’Silva questioned whether the amendment is in public interest. He also enquired about the whereabouts of city planner Vinayak Bharne. He also claimed that there were no experts on the committee constituted by the TCP and those having an interest in tourism and real estate have been appointed and not those with public interest. Another activist, Zarina D’Cunha questioned how the errors were realized only 10 years later.
Goa Foundation called the amendments “back door entry” created for builders and developers and urged the state to scrap the amendments immediately. Claude Alvares, GF Director called back to the 16B amendment to the TCP act that was challenged by them and said that 17(2) is contradictory to the interest of the Goan people.
Altruistic Goans move to High Court to challenge the State government’s decision to amend 17(2) of the TCP Act on the eve of Statehood Day. Activists stated that this amendment does not provide for public consultation before making changes to the regional plan. They have filed a PIL writ petition before the High Court of Bombay at Goa hoping to strike down Section 17 and sub-section 2 of TCP Act of Goa. They have also prayed for the strike of alterations and modifications made to the Regional Plan.
As per the petitioners, M/s Gangareddy Infra Pvt Ltd made applications to the TCP department on March 27, 2023, under Section 17 sub-section 2 of the TCP Act with respect to land measuring 12,764 sq mt under survey number 245, sub-division 8 at Morjim. This is one of the 12 such cases where applications have been made by others as well. The petitioners further said that most of the land that has undergone zone change are hilly areas and a plateau with a large number of trees and were appropriately classified as Orchard zones.
Goans voice their concerns over the amendment of Section 17(2) of the TCP Act and the conversion of Orchards and eco-sensitive zones to settlements. Goa Foundation expresses concerns and challenges the State government as Activists move to High Court to file a writ against the amendment.