Concrete Wall at Goa’s Vainguinim Beach: Why Locals Are Protesting
Goans have stormed Twitter with #SaveVainguinimBeach and #HandsOffOurSand as virtual protest.
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Video Producer and Text: Aastha Gulati
While Goans were respecting the curfew imposed by the government of Goa to help fight the COVID surge in the state, and while we were still recovering from the damage caused by Cyclone Tauktae, construction work took place at a small beach at Dona Paula.
Vainguinim Beach, relatively off the tourist eye, has been a haven for locals as a picnic spot, for weekend football games, open-water swims and so on. Local fishermen rely on the beach for their livelihood. Adjacent to the beach is multi-starrer resort Cidade de Goa. The hotel undertook what it calls ‘repair work’ at the beach in April. This was first noticed by locals. By 21 May, our neighbourhood beach had a linear wall on the beach-front in an intertidal ‘no development’ zone.
Events of April
On 20 April, the Vainguinim Valley Residents Association (VVRA) wrote a letter to the Taleigao Panchayat, Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) and the Director of Tourism to bring to the notice this digging work. On 23 April, a joint site inspection was conducted by the GCZMA and the panchayat. The VVRA had also requested them to issue a stop-work order. The GCZMA inspection report by the expert panel noted that there were violations being committed for the said repair permission.
(The Quint has accessed the inspection report.)
The hotel claims that it has all permissions and construction was undertaken to prevent erosion of the beach. They had permission from the CRZ in 2017 under seven conditions, three of which were being violated as per the inspection.
“Concrete was being used instead of eco-friendly material. Secondly, work was taking place within 100 metres of the high tideland in a no-development zone. Thirdly, a competent permission from the local authority was not taken.”Aakash Madgavkar, VVRA
Moreover, if the 'retaining wall' is a few metres away from the hotel, how can it be called an extension of the property? Goans feel it is simply an intrusion into public property against which several we have raised our voice. This small beach was even trending on Twitter a few days ago, when the wall was still under construction.
“A result of this place being both land and water is that it is under immense and constant pressure to be developed and encroached upon, which is why we have recognised laws to protect it, and which is why it is illegal to build any concrete structure within the high-tide line in the first place.”Danika Tavora, Outdoor Educator
On 27 April, the District Court served a notice to the representatives of the VVRA and fishermen from the hotel, requesting for a temporary injunction on the basis that the former interfering with their 'legal beach work' and that they are 'intimidating the workers with threats'. A court date was set for 29 April. The following day, a show cause notice was sent to the hotel by GCZMA, asking them to produce all paperwork and permissions by 3 May and to attend a personal hearing on the matter on 6 May.
On 6 May, the District Court passed an order stating no work will be undertaken on the beach till 10 May ie the date of the next hearing. This hearing was postponed till 20 May due to the pandemic. The following day, the VVRA filed a writ petition in the High Court vs GCZMA, Panchayat, Hotel and others.
In the court hearings that followed, no interim relief was issued. Construction finished at the site on 21 May.
Restoring the Beach
This wall sets a precedent for others hotels to build similar structures. Other beaches around Goa are also in jeopardy.
“This isn’t the first time this beach has been subject to the activity of privatisation. In fact, people have been fighting for it since before I was born, all the way back in 1991, to ensure this beach remains in the public domain.In fact, the Supreme Court came out with a ruling in 2009, two decades later, which ensured that this beach remained open to the public and accessible by all.”Kenny Silveira, Local
Everyone who has moved here, lived here, or has simply even visited Goa for its scenic beaches, needs to speak about this.
Fomento Resorts' Response to The Quint
A spokesperson of Fomento Resorts and Hotels Limited has responded to The Quint's queries. The response is produced herewith:
- The area under which the retaining wall is being repaired is in Survey No. 246/1, which is owned by the Hotel. This retaining wall has been in existence for over 5 decades. Consistently, over period of time, the hotel has ensured that it has been maintained and repaired so as to protect the erosion of the beach area. This retaining wall is not a new structure. The Hotel does not gain in anyway by compromising the beach, and the retaining wall is only to protect the erosion as it has been doing all this time.
- In 2017, due to heavy rains over the previous years, a portion of the retaining wall began collapsing. The Hotel received permission from the GCZMA and work began in 2017 in consultation with the state Water Resource Department (WRD).
- As work continued, further cracks appeared in the retaining wall. Over the past 2 years, each part was accordingly dealt with as per the permission and in consultation with the WRD. Despite the work being conducted, only recently, certain individuals had come to the site and threatened our workers and filed complaints to the authorities. The authorities immediately on receipt of their complaint, conducted a site inspection on 20 April by the GCZMA, and the report confirmed that the work was conducted in line with the permission. During the course of this time, the WRD also conducted a site inspection and have confirmed that construction is being conducted in line with the plans submitted to the department. On completion of the work, the WRD has also conducted an inspection and confirmed that the work has been carried out in line with the plans submitted to the department.
- A Show Cause notice was issued by GCZMA (based on the complaint) in response to which we have submitted our initial response. GCZMA has not in any way directed that the work at site be stopped.
- These persons who are attempting to malign the hotels reputation in social media platforms, continue to do so. The Group is in serious consideration of filing other charges and not limited to suits for damages from these person. It is only because they have not succeeded to stop legally sanctioned works through appropriate forums such as the Authorities, the Courts that they are resorting to platforms where there is no accountability of facts. These persons have also resorted to call our senior management and have made threats.
- The work was carried out as it was to be completed before the onset of monsoons and construction/repair works were permitted during lockdown period vide District Magistrate North Goa order dated 8 May 2021 vide para 3 (k).
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