Goa's Spirited Online Weekly Magazine.

Lion Roars -32

December 9-15, 2013

How barge construction yards encroach on the Zuari .....3850 sq mt in one case

For several years now the Chicalim Villagers Action Committee (CVAC) has been fighting to save the River Zuari especially the length of the river flanking the villages of Chicalim and Sancoale (also read http://goanspirit.com/index.php/lead/387-the-battle-for-goa-s-blue-bay) but appears sadly to have made little headway to prevent a clutch of barge repair yards from damaging the river’s ecology and in many cases actually encroaching on the river.  This is despite collecting and collating fairly damaging evidence through Right to Information (RTI).

Beginning this week, this column will give you a fairly good idea of the extent of damage being caused and in keeping with the ongoing series on mining-dependent politicians and the mining industry’s rich benefactors which began with Lion Roars – 28.   One of the worst offenders is the Chicalim-based Abhishek Engineers owned by Uday K. Naik, considered to be a serial wrongdoer by CVAC.

According to CVAC secretary Rui Costa Araujo when the yard was inspected by the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) on April 15, 2013 specifically to investigate CVAC’s allegation of land filling and dredging done illegally, this was sidestepped, and instead the GSPCB reported back that the yard’s licence to operate under the air (1981) and water (1974) acts had expired on December 1, 2012.  The GSPCB also said in its report that an earlier inspection carried out earlier on February 14, 2013 had on that occasion too exposed the same violation. 

At the time of the latest (April 15) inspection, the yard owner could also not show GSPCB the location of the septic tank/soak pit for the toilets built for his 24 workers.  On July 5, 2013, the yard was served with a show-cause notice but no action was taken afterwards despite all the stern warnings in that letter.  No mention was made of the illegal land filling and dredging once again.

The CVAC first noticed the yard’s illegal activities as far back as October 2010.  In fact, several inspections were carried out by the authorities in 2011 and 2012.  On October 28, 2011 the Chicalim Panchayat also issued it a stop-order notice but this too was ignored.  In January 2012, the government’s specially constituted Flying Squad went to the yard to investigate the land but found the main gate of the yard locked preventing their entry. 

On July 12, 2012 the Block Development Officer (BDO), Vasco da Gama went to the yard with prior appointment but was also denied entry.  A second inspection carried out on August 3, 2012 exposed this startling fact: Abhishek Engineers had illegally filled up a land area measuring 5,250 sq mt.  The land area was 150 mt long and had a maximum width of 45 mt at one end.  At the time of the inspection, the yard owner failed to produce a panchayat licence approving the land filling.  According to CVAC, the actual size of the land shown in the crucial Form I and XIV (survey no. 16/6) is a mere 1,400 sq mt which means the owner of the yard had created a land base of 3,850 sq mt by illegally encroaching on the River Zuari .

The sketch plan made by the inspectors of the land filling clearly shows that the entire length of 150 mt falls inside the River Zuari.  The width of the illegal land filling varied from a minimum of 26 mt at one end to 34 mt in the centre (roughly) to the maximum of 45 mt at the other end.  Also, the plan showed that much of the 26 mt width was in the river.  Crucially, all the official evidence pointed out that the activity was on the high tide line of the river.

Systematically, agency after government agency failed to take action except for the farcical inspections that were carried out and dashing of show-cause notices to Abhishek Engineers.  The agencies that dragged their feet over the issue are: the Deputy Collector, Mormugao Taluka, the Mamlatdar, Mormugao Taluka, the BDO (Amir Y. Parab), the GSPCB, Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority and the toothless if not conniving Chicalim Panchayat.

In fact as far back as August 1, 2011 CVAC wrote to the panchayat reminding it that the permission granted to the yard was for the purpose of repairing barges only and not for the actual construction of barges.  The letter was based on a gram sabha resolution taken on January 29, 2006, not to issue any permission/NOC for extension/construction of shipyard project within the jurisdiction of the panchayat.  Another gram sabha held on July 31, 2011 had also resolved to expressly stop the expansion works being carried out by the yard.

(To be continued)