BATTLE FOR JUSTICE: GREEN ACTIVISTS UP IN ARMS AGAINST RELOCATION OF GOA’s JURISDICTION IN NGT

The Western Zone will now consist of the cases related to Gujarat and Maharashtra only. Goa has been singled out as the only state in the country whose residents will need to go to Delhi for environmental justice, while the citizens of other parts of the country are provided access to the closest place possible.

 

The sudden and unexpected move of the Central Government to shift the jurisdiction of Goa from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Western Zone of Pune bench to the Principal Bench in Delhi is likely to give birth to new movement in the state, with green warriors and other activists coming out in large, protesting against the ‘arbitrary’ and ‘malicious’ decision.
Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on August 10 issued a notification specifying the ordinary places of sitting and territorial jurisdiction of the NGT. Goa, which was a part of Pune bench along with Gujarat and Maharashtra, is now brought under Delhi Principal Bench.
The Western Zone will now consist of the cases related to Gujarat and Maharashtra only. Goa has been singled out as the only state in the country whose residents will need to go to Delhi for environmental justice, while the citizens of other parts of the country are provided access to the closest place possible.
However, in a major relief, the Bombay High Court at Goa passed an interim order restricting NGT/MoEF from transferring the cases from Pune bench to Delhi. The next hearing is scheduled on August 5 in a petition filed by several activists seeking stay on the MoEF order.
“We are relieved with the High Court order. We will fight in the Court to ensure that our jurisdiction remains before the Western Zone. We are fighting against the government, who has failed to protect the environment of the state. We are doing the job which government should have done,” activist Kashinath Shetye, who approached the High Court, said.
The MoEF move raises serious doubts about the government’s collusion with Centre considering the fact that the incumbent Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, as well as his MLAs, are vocal against the NGT’s “unnecessary interference” in the development of the state. Parrikar, on many occasions, is on record to slam the NGT, which is used as a weapon by the environmentalist to hamper development.
Nevertheless, it may be recalled too, that it was then BJP-led government who had approached MoEF for setting up a bench of NGT in Goa; unfortunately, despite being the NDA government in power at the Centre, the proposal did not take shape.
The activists too have been demanding for a special bench of NGT in Goa as against the Pune bench, to avoid the unnecessary travel and spending on the cases.
It is interesting to note that of the total cases pending before the Western Zone, 40 percent cases related to environment are from Goa. Be it infamous illegal mining cases related to pollution or environmental clearance, the Mormugao Port Trust’s coal expansion project, controversial Tiracol Golf course project, third bridge over River Mandovi, violation of coastal regulation zone, industrial pollution- are some of the serious cases filed and pending before the Pune bench, apart from other individual cases.
“This move is akin to ignoring and removal of statehood status of Goa, and placing it directly under control of the Centre once again. It is complete illogical move,” Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA) convener Sabina Martins said.
GBA alleged that it has been done to thwart Goans from accessing environmental justice in an affordable way. The activists believe that the move is in complete violation of the NGT Act 2010, which is visionary in its implementation, empowering people to access environmental justice like the RTI and Consumer Forum. It deals with all Central Environmental Acts, and ever since 2013, it had become popular with those opposing ill-conceived development in Goa.
Federation of Rainbow Warriors, another NGO from South Goa, also slammed MoEF for environmental injustice.
“Goa is suffering the greatest destruction of environment among other states. The number of cases filed by Goan activists in Pune, including illegal dredging of Vasco bay, Mopa airport environmental clearance, national highway works without environmental impact assessment, violations of CRZ and forest laws proves this,” the group said in a press statement issued.
Well know environmental activist, who had shaken government with his series of petitions challenging the Tiracol golf course project, mining without environmental clearances etc. Dr Claude Alvares said that, “the move is nothing but to harass the petitioner, fighting against government misdeeds.”
“It is a disgusting attempt on the part of MoEF to prevent those fighting to preserve Goa’s environment,” he said.
The other states along with Goa include Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
The Southern bench at Chennai will consist of states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Union Territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep.
The Easter Zone at Kolkata bench will cover States like West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
While the state government maintained silence on the entire controversy, the Congress party has approached Union Ministry seeking immediate withdrawal of the notification while demanding an independent bench of NGT in Goa.

September 4th, 2017

Posted In: Feature

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