High court seeks status report from Goa's forest department in eight weeks
The high court of Bombay at Goa has directed the state forest department to survey a residential project underway in Dabolim and ascertain whether the land in question is a forest area. The forest department has to complete the survey within eight weeks.
The court also directed the state government to submit the survey report to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Thereafter, the ministry has to decide within six weeks on clearances already granted to the project. A division bench comprising Justices AP Lavande and U V Bakre issued the directions while hearing a petition filed by Goa Foundation, Panjim based non-profit, and Edwin Mascarenhas, a resident of Panjim. The non-profit has challenged the project being developed by Saravati Builders and Constructions and Anand Builders. The petitioners had pointed out that the land on which the project is being developed falls under the jurisdiction of Chicalim village panchayat and that part of it is notified as forest area. It is demarcated as no-development area under the draft Regional Plan 2021.
The petition alleges that the project requires felling of a large number of trees on a steeply sloping terrain in ecologically sensitive areas. Appearing for the petitioners, advocate Norma Alvares pointed out that MoEF had decided to keep the environment clearance granted to the project in abeyance till it reviewed the matter. “The order dated April 15, 2010, directed the builders not to proceed with the construction on survey number 43/1 till a detailed examination of all the issues raised in the petition were re-examined by the expert appraisal committee,” Alvares said. She also pointed out that on April 27, 2010, the high court had directed the developers not to carry out further construction until MoEF takes a decision on the clearances granted to the project and had also directed the individual owners of around 43 plots in the project to maintain status quo.
Earlier, the developers had told the court that they had obtained all the requisite approvals and the plots had been sub-divided in 2007. They also informed the court that several plots had been already sold and third party rights had been created. The court will next hear the petition on July 17.
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