The Bombay high court at Goa on Tuesday issued a notice to chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s son, Abhijat, for allegedly damaging a forest in an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) “in the guise of” building an eco-tourism resort along a wildlife sanctuary’s boundary.
Abhijit Dessai, a member of Netravali village Panchayat, has filed a petition before the court accusing authorities of breaking the law to facilitate “arbitrary and illegal” permissions to Hideaway Hospitality for the resort within a kilometre of Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary’s buffer zone in South Goa . Hideaway Hospitality is said to be promoted by Abhijat.
The court has also asked the Goa chief secretary, the state forest secretary and the chief wildlife warden to respond by the next date of hearing on March 11.
The petition alleges that the Eco Sensitive Zone Monitoring Committee, which regulates activities within ESZs, granted permission for the resort in contravention of the ESZ Notification which provides that till a Zonal Master Plan is approved, development for tourism and expansion of existing tourism activities shall not be permitted.
“There are no approved master plans for Goa’s ESZs and no site inspection was conducted,” he argued in his petition.
Abhijat did not responded to requests for comment and no representative was present in the court at the time of the court directing the issue of notices.
The advocate representing the state government, however, argued that the petition should be dismissed on the grounds that there was an unreasonable delay in approaching the court when the permissions in question was issued by the government in 2015. He also argued that the antecedents of the petitioners are suspicious as he had several cases registered against him.
However, advocate Carlos Ferreira, who represented the petitioner, argued that work on the site had begun only a few months ago, which prompted the petition at this stage on grounds of environmental destruction.
Ferreira alleged that armed with the dubious permissions, Abhijat has indulged in “rampant destruction of forest adjoining Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary in the property” in the guise of building the eco-tourism resort and mislead the government into believing that he was building structures using only natural materials.
The petition also alleged that to help Abhijat, the state government “rushed to promulgate a tailor-made Ordinance to the Goa Town and Country Planning Act, 1974,” which exempted any applicant “who desires to set up an ecotourism activity, in Eco Sensitive Zones from obtaining any conversion of land, or any change of zoning or change of land use.”
The matter is slated to be heard again on March 11.