Leading Hotels Ltd. has proposed to set up a massive resort on the northern most tip of Goa, in Tiracol village. This proposal has been facing opposition from residents of Tiracol for over seven years.
The proposal includes a resort with 198 villas and a US PGA Standard championship Golf Course set across the lush, rolling hills of Tiracol.Over the last few months the opposition to the resort has intensified, with people from across the state protesting in solidarity with the residents of Tiracol. In a state where tourism contributes heavily to the economy, how has a project like this alienated the locals? Do they not benefit from the money and jobs that are being promised through the project? The residents’ answer provide a completely different reality. The resort will destroy Tiracol’s fragile eco-system and the self-sustaining livelihoods of the locals, including fishing and cashew plantations. The jobs being proposed by Leading Hotels will not bring any economic benefits, and will instead impoverish the community by killing the small businesses that currently exist here.
The Project, Resources and Impact
Leading Hotels has acquired, through what locals and activists call dubious deals, 90% of the land available at Tiracol village, i.e., 13,00,000 square meters, leaving just the village settlement, which forms the remaining 10%.
Among points of contention is the fact that Leading Hotels claims that the land acquired is barren. In fact, several ads in local newspapers featuring the project come with the tagline ‘From Barren to Beautiful’. However,Leading Hotel’s own Impact Assessment show that there are 19,000 trees and plant species on the property and at least 1966 trees will be felled for the project!
Tiracol and its neighbouring villages already face an acute shortage of water and have to rely on tankers and pipelines. The resort, when it comes up, will require between 15,00,000 and 2,55,000 litres of water per day; of this they’ve earmarked 450 litres of water per tourist per day. To make up for this crunch on resources Leading Hotels has offered to replenish ground water through rain-water harvesting and has promised to provide 1000 litres to each family.
Residents are irate that the government, right from the panchayat to the chief minister,have ignored their concerns, and are instead adamant on passing the project under the Central Government’s Large Revenue Generating Scheme.This is only one of several such projects in Goa where attempts to attract high-end tourism are being set up at a great cost to local communities.
In July 2015, Video Volunteers did an email interview with Claude Alvares, a Goa based environmentalist and the Director of Goa Foundation, an environmental monitoring action group, which has challenged clearances given to the proposed project of Leading Hotels Golf Course Resort. Claude is also the editor of the Other India Press publication, India.
Video Volunteers (VV): How have things been shaping up for Goa Foundation's petition challenging the environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone clearances given to the proposed project of Leading Hotels Golf Course Resort? What is the timeline of this?
Claude Alvares (CA): There are lots of proceedings. There is a proceeding before National Green Tribunal (NGT) that has stalled work on the Tiracol bridge. There is a writ petition challenging the tenancy fraud and the permissions to construct the golf course. That matter is before the High Court and will come up for stay of the project on Monday (6th July, 2015) at 10.30 am (Panaji). There is a challenge to the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance and the Environment Clearance before the NGT. Preliminary order on maintainability of the appeal was decided in favour of Goa Foundation. They appealed before the Bombay High Court first in Mumbai and now in Goa. That has been settled by an order sending the matter back to the NGT again yesterday (30th June, 2015).
VV: We read in one of the reports, that Mandrem being an ecological sensitive zone for the turtle nesting, this kind of venture is being prohibited. What are the implications on biodiversity and flora fauna other than the simple fact that they’ll be destroyed? There is conflicting information in Leading Hotels' environmental impact assessment and the government's report.
CA: Please read the NGT order in the Sunil Shetye case against the golf course which holds that this requires the project authorities to get their Environmental Clearance from the centre and not from the Goa authorities.
Note: Shetye’s pleas to the NGT stated that the location of Leading Hotels project site is within 10 kms from common boundary of Goa and State of Maharashtra, and such a project is not permissible under the environmental law. The NGT ruling, which raises several concerns about the violation of environmental laws reads that “ …the village Mandrem is declared as place of turtle nesting in the CRZ notification 2011 and therefore, it is not a question, which could be overlooked by the National Green Tribunal…” The ruling further questioned the validity of the Environmental clearance granted byGoa State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (GSEIAA)
VV: What is the status on land acquisition?
CA: The land is tenanted land. It cannot be used for anything other than agriculture, certainly not for a golf course. Some tenants were induced to go to a civil court and tell the court they were not tenants. Court removed the tenancy. But these deals are illegal. They are called "negative declarations". We have asked for them to be quashed and set aside. The interesting thing is the villagers who did this, have now turned and are claiming they are still tenants and never sold their land and were duped by the company. They are moving the courts this week.
VV: We know that there are serious problems with water in Tiracol, can you give us a comprehensive understanding on this? What are the implications on water if the golf course is built?
CA: Water for the golf course is going to come from 17 boreholes located above the village. Panchayat has already approved 5. Naturally, it is feared, these boreholes being on upper ground will deplete the water going to the wells of the villagers in the valley below. In addition, they want the bridge so that they can annex a pipeline under it to cross the river, bringing the water all the way from Tillari exclusively for the golf course.
Note: In it’s own environmental impact assessment report, Leading Hotels estimates that the resort will use 2,55,000 litres of water per day. The CRZ clearance report states that it will require15,00,000 litres per day.
VV: What is the strength of the community – i.e. how many people? How many have land, how many are fisherfolk? What are the implications of this land being used for the golf course? What are the jobs being offered by Leading Hotels?
CA: They are a community of some 50-70 households, around 200 people. They get a lot for their livelihoods from the lands requisitioned for the golf course.
Note: over 60 families reside in Tiracol. They are primarily dependent on cashew plantations and fishing. Some residents have small eateries and restaurants, for supplementing their incomes. Most families earn over INR 1 lakh per annum from their plantations/fishing. This Golf Course resort project means a loss of this livelihood.
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Interview compiled by Radhika.
Radhika coordinates Video Volunteers’ Expansion & Social Movements Partnerships.
Villagers of this South Goa village finally have an all-weather road.
A prime example of minimum government, maximum governance.