By Claude Alvares, Environmentalist
Rahul Basu and I were trying to figure out an apt imagery or symbol for the kind of ruinous “development” projects that have been lumped on Goa in the past decade. These were of such a nature that they were threatening to change forever the picture of the state and the welfare of its people. Basu said: Let’s call it the “parachute model”.
Over the past decade at least, a significant number of powerful companies and guys stashed to the gills with money, have dropped down from the skies in rapid succession to bring heavenly development to Goa. Everywhere these parachuters descend, they take everything with them. For them there is no land use law, no tenanted land, no forest, no khazan, no sand dune.
The latest piece of wonder is the Mini India project settling down among the khazan fields and mangroves of Quelossim, next to Cortalim (8 lakh sm spread). Take a look at the picture of the site.
The parachuter this time wants to turn the entire khazan into a permanent exhibition centre with a five star resort, and – hold your breath – a floating pontoon that will showcase miniatures of all the great monuments of India including the Old Goa Church and the Taj Mahal! In future, Bharat Darshan will involve taking a drive to the Quelossim khazan and in the space of an hour seeing all the grand historical monuments that India is known for in one place, that too, floating on the water!
So what if Goa’s statutory land use plan, the CRZ notification, etc, etc, do not permit such a crazy dingbat proposal on khazan and mangrove terrain? Well, the parachuter goes to the Goa Investment Promotion Board where the project is passed after unloading truckloads of grease. Panchayat gives “provisional NOC.” Before you know it, hundreds of truckloads of mud are dumped on the khazan before the High Court is invited to look at the mess and impose restraint.
Other parachuters are descending elsewhere in Goa. An IIT wants to parachute into Loliem, taking a private forest with it. A liquor plant wants to parachute into Sanguem, taking 1,000 coconut trees with it. An airport is descending at Mopa taking several villages with it. Competent Automobiles has been trying to parachute into Cansaulim now for ten years, but the parachute is stuck in the coconut trees. DefExpo wants a separate parachute delivery at Betul. At Tiracol, Leading Hotels wants to descend on a parachute that will cover the entire village of 13 lakh sm. Rahajas parachute is also stuck in the Carmona coconut trees. (That’s why in Goa, the government feels coconut trees should be replaced by grass.)
You get the idea?
My only reservation is that the word parachute is too close to parachutia. Maybe that’s the reason why Goans are only giving gaalis at what they are seeing these days. But Niti Ayog and the World Bank will be delirious now that they have a new development label that best says it all.