21August2017

Goa's Spirited Online Weekly Magazine.

The Cacra cliffhanger

For once LION ROARS erred.  Rajiv and Rashmi Mehta who were ordered by additional Collector North Swapnil M. Naik to stop building, were asked (to quote the order): “It is clear from the plan itself that at the eastern side of the plot the CRZ line demarcation is 32.35 mt.”  I had said 41 mt. 

“In fact, this CRZ line demarcation on the plan has not been done by Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) and as such it appears that the structure under construction is illegal as it violates the No Development Zone of 100 mt from the river coast.” GCZMA’s Simon D’Souza has also agreed to demarcate the NDZ.  Is it Goa or gullible Goans then, that Goa worshippers like the Mehtas find irresistible?

The growing Goa congregation

Goa wannabes are growing.  A relative of a Delhi newspaper magnate is building a home in Nerul on 10 acres.  Actress turned director Pooja Bhat, actor Ranvir Sheorey and fashion designer Tarun Tahliani bought houses in Nerul.  Bina Ramani, arrested in Goa last September after a Delhi court served her a non-bailable warrant for allegedly forging documents of the restaurant that became notorious after model Jessica Lal was murdered there; bought and sold land in Nerul to as many as five celebs.  Bina Ramani sold her Saipem property to the Baga hotel built on sand dunes, believe it because people there gave her bad vibes triggered by her arrest; and used that money to buy land in Siolim.  Her daughter Malani Ramani, Bangalore fashion designer Prasad Bidappa bought houses on the Calangute/Candolim border.  So did Good Earth, the alternative lifestyle store chain in Candolim.  Ritu Kumar, the Delhi designer bought a house there, as did former Miss India Neha Dupia.  The Bangalore-based Naresh Mehrotra and Café Coffee Day owner bought a house in Goa.  There’s also Jackie Shroff who is into building posh villas for his celeb friends.

Rooms with no view

Six months ago, a hill that was brutalized at Odxel to make way for town houses became the focus of a protest march.  Today, it is a site where construction has gained frenzied pace and townhouses at different levels, not to mention a sprawling hotel, are in different stages of completion.  The promoters, Dynamix, were approached by a family with diamond interests in Antwerp despite their Rs 1,50,00,000 price tag.  However, after it was pointed out that the town houses would cancel out the picturesque view of the townhouse on the level below, the family backed out.  Further down the road the Panjim builder Landscape is constructing three (priced at  Rs 1,00,00,000 ) and two bedroom apartments (priced at Rs 72,00,000).  The location has a breathtaking view of the Zuari river and Arabian Sea.

 Swept away like dirt

Big hoteliers, Mumbaites and Delhites bulldozing sand dunes and building fancy houses right down to the sea is a reality from Agonda to Baga.  What is distressing about the inevitability of Goa being sold lock, stock and barrel; is how hard working men like Justiano Pereira, a poor farmer from Adaowaddo, Majorda are swept aside like dirt.  Humble Justiano’s tormentor is the rich and powerful Sea Bird Resorts whose director Nirav Parekh, is based in Nariman Point, Mumbai.  Parekh bought 23,754 sq mt from Rui Fernandes Leao to build his huge hotel.

Pereira and others are now fighting to protect and retain a common well (their only water source) built at a cost of Rs 23,117 (Rural Development Authority funding) by the Majorda-Utorda-Calata Village Panchayat that now falls in Parekh’s property.  Worse a traditional pathway and well has almost entirely been taken over by Parekh blocking off the decades old path.  On October 3, 2006 villagers wrote to the Sarpanch placing on record their objections to the approval of the construction plans, if it was intended to block their traditional pathway.  The Sarpanch issued Sea Bird a show-cause notice dated October 5, 2006.  But Parekh like all Mumbai and Delhi hoteliers who are hell bent on taking over Goa’s protected (hypothetically) coast, began building in March 2007 completely choking off the traditional passageway and well.  Despite the complaints lodged with the Colva police and the Village Panchayat of Majorda-Calata-Utorda by them no action was ever been taken to stop Parekh.

The power of money

Parekh effectively cordoned off and covered an ancient nullah that was a channel for rainwater flowing through the fields into the sea.  The nullah, Parekh proposed to construct in concrete as an open drain is in his construction plans passed by the South Goa Planning Development Authority on January25, 2007.  Parekh’s other proposal to install narrow drainpipes to replace the natural nullah and a huge wall being built around the property will flood the area during the monsoon.

Parekh’s punishing plans for a once beautiful hamlet also includes locating his garbage dump behind his hotel and next to the homes of Justiano and the villagers. The Town & Country Planning (TCP) NoC to Sea Bird clearly states, “The proposed development shall not block any existing traditional path passing through the property.”  It says further, “The pathway of 2 mt in width as shown on the site plan shall be maintained to the satisfaction of the Village Panchayat.”  Sea Bird as per its approved plan is building a total of four buildings and has already said it intends to rise above the permitted 3.5 mt height.  With a total planned construction of 8,416.47 sq mt, Sea Bird will make a sea change in idyllic Adaowaddo.

 Aam aadmi concern?

Incredibly from the licenses Justiano obtained under RTI, the plans were approved and signed by the town planner, senior town planner, chief town planner, secretary (TCP) the minister (TCP) and by Pratapsing Rane in the flurry of a few days in January 2007.  One of them, it is difficult to say who (in the plans, these remarks are closest to the initials of the chief town planner) wrote this: “In addition, the applicant has undertaken to enhance approach roads, parking space and to enhance greenery in the areas.”  None of them have agreed so far to hear out Justiano’s petitions which forced him to go to court.

Justiano says the town planner informed him that there were no restrictions on the distance to be maintained between commercial and residential users.  “However, minimum setbacks are required to be maintained as per prevailing norms.”  No dimensions (which Justiano wanted) were mentioned in the reply.  In another letter in fact the senior town planner informed him that Sea Bird’s licenses were issued on the basis of the old Regional Plan 2001.

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