Posted on September 20, 2022
Raising concerns at the public hearings on the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), environmentalists have time and again highlighted the importance of sand dunes which form the last line of defence during adverse weather conditions like cyclones and how they help in preventing sand erosion.
Against the backdrop of the State government celebrating the Centre’s approval of the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) for Goa, the environmentalists’ worst fears came true when the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) claimed that there were no sand dunes on Sernabatim Beach.
From a larger point of view, environmentalists feel that the only option left with them is to challenge the CZMP as otherwise, there could be similar cases where sand dunes across beaches in Goa will be shown as non-existent and approvals will be granted for projects on these beaches.
Ironically, in the past GCZMA had ordered the restoration of a sand dune on this beach but now insists, there aren’t any. This will now lead to commercial development on the beach.
It may be recalled that the recent notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) was met with skepticism by various greens as around 46 lakh square metres of sand dunes were missing from the CZMP that was approved for Goa.
While the State government promised to approach the Centre on including the sand dunes that were verified in GCZMA’s ground truthing exercise, a case has already emerged where GCZMA has asked the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to dismiss a petition on the basis of no sand dunes existing on Sernabatim Beach.
This issue has come up in a matter that is being heard by the NGT.
The Colva Civic and Consumer Forum (CCCF) has raised objections to the approvals granted by GCZMA to a private company for the construction of cottages and other structures on Sernabatim.
GCZMA’s arguments are based on surveys and findings of the Chennai-based National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA), which had given its final recommendations to the MoEFCC for approving the CZMP for Goa.
Incidentally, GCZMA has even stated that all the reports mentioned by the appellant (CCCF) is superseded by the report of NCSCM, the notified agency of MoEFCC, which did not depict or mark any sand dunes on the draft CZMP 2011 in Sernabatim.
The GCZMA also referred to the ground truthing exercise and still reiterated that at the time of granting its NOC/approval, no sand dunes were reflected in the survey of Sernabatim village.
While the next hearing in the CZMP matter is scheduled on Tuesday, the appellant has pointed out that there are reports from the years 2009, 2014 and 2020 that confirmed sand dunes and the GCZMA itself had ordered for the restoration of a sand dune on the beach. Furthermore, two expert members of GCZMA had also confirmed the existence of sand dunes on Sernabatim. Questions have now been raised as to how the GCZMA can now submit that there were no sand dunes
Moreover, CCCF has also shown documentary evidence in the past that confirms the existence of sand dunes but also the fact that they are continuous.