A division Bench of the Bombay High Court (Panaji) comprising justice S.J. Vazifdar and Justice U.D. Salvi today passed an order recording undertaking given by the Goa Cricket Association that it would not fell any trees on the property or interfere with the plot on which the association is planning to erect the an international cricket stadium.
The Court also recorded the statement of GCA counsel that nothing would be done on the rest of the property until and unless all permissions and licenses were obtained by the association.
The Court was hearing a petition filed by Uday P. Mavlankar, Goraknath P. Mavlankar (both farmers from Thivim), Ashok Kuttu Parab (a component of the Sirsaim Communidade) and the Goa Foundation. All four petitioners approached the court with their petition to squash and set aside the forest clearance granted to the director of sports by the Ministry of Environment & Forests on 30th November, 2009 and final clearance on 23/10/2008.
The petition also seeks squashing of any orders under section 16 and 16A of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1974, if any, issued in connection with the project. Petition also seeks squashing of all proceedings by which 44,000 sq.mts of land of Sirsaim Comunidade have been taken over by the forest dept. through fraudulent proceedings of the Sirsaim Comunidade Managing Committee.
The Goa Govt. had acquired a total of 1,30,000 sq.mts of land at Thivim. Part of the land comprises paddy fields and part forest. The acquisition was done without mandatory NOC from the Town & Country Planning Dept. Permission to re-zone the land as Institutional Recreation Zone was rejected by the Government in 2007.
The land is zoned as eco-zone I under the Draft Regional Plan 2021 because of apddy fields and natural forest.
Though the land value was estimated at Rs.6.5 crores, the Sports Dept. on its own reduced it to Rs.50 lakhs.
The proposal to destroy the forest was made by the Director of Sports directly with the Ministry of Environment & Forests. The Goa Govt. at no time informed the Ministry of Environment and Forests that its application to fell the forest was being done at the behest of a private association. Guidelines for diversion of natural forest cannot be granted for residential buildings.
The Goa Cricket Association proposal envisages erection of a stadium which will house 50 thousand people and which houses multiplexes, club house, hotels and several restaurants. Apparently, the BCCI has promised the association Rs. 25 crores as its contribution to the project. However, the BCCI was never informed that a class I forest would have to be demolished for the project involving a total of more then 2500 trees. The GCA claims the stadium will be second in size only to Eden Gardens.
The petitioners have relied upon the assessment prepared by Heinz Lainer, author of the standard book Birds of Goa who has reported sighting of 113 species of woodland birds in the forest which is unparalleled in the whole of Goa east of the Western Ghats. These facts were not made known to the Ministry of Environment & Forest. According to Mr. Lainer, the woodland consists of areas of mature primary semi-ever green forest, secondary mixed forest and open woodland.
The petitioners have stated in their petition that they have no objection to the proposal for construction of int’l cricket stadium in Goa. However, in this particular case, they state there is no evidence that care was taken to locate the site without impinging on the forest or identifying any other site which did not require destruction of forest.
The petitioners have also stated in the petition that environment clearance for the project is mandatory and that no effort has been made by either the association or the govt. to seek the necessary clearance. Without EC, no work can start.
The Court has now posted the matter for further hearing till the 21st of June.
(Dr Claude Alvares)