PANAJI: The Bombay High Court at Goa has taken on record a statement by the Advocate General that they will execute orders for the demolition of structures set up in the khazans of Merces by November 30.
The Court heard a plea filed by Jose Oliveira, a resident of Merces and issued directions to the Goa government to execute the orders of GCZMA dated 07.03.2022 for demolition of all the illegal structures constructed in sy nos 275/1-A, 1-B & 1-C, Morombi-o-Grande village before 30.11.2023, and to restore the khazan lands.
Jose Oliveira, Merces Manch Welfare Association through its President Sudesh Kalangutkar and Secretary Joao Carmino, Suresh Pilarnekar and Umesh Naik for many years fought the illegal filling of large areas of the khazans and construction of large commercial structures in sy nos 275/1-A, B and C of Morambi-o-Grande village (part of Merces VP) a long-drawn-out battle for the locals, having to fight before the GCZMA, High Court, NGT and Supreme Court for over 7 years, before eventually succeeding in getting justice on 07.11.2022, when the Supreme Court upheld the demolition and restoration orders of the GCZMA.
State govt's failure to execute order
However, the Goa government has failed to execute the orders and avoided the demolition for over a year, despite daily follow-up by Oliveira with the mamlatdar and the GCZMA. Frustrated, Jose Oliveira had to approach the High Court again with prayers for early demolition and restoration, which were granted by the High Court at the very first hearing.
“These khazan lands belong to the village communities of the adjoining villages of Morombi-O-Grande, Morombi-O-Pequeno, Chimbel and Calapur, providing an incomparable economic engine that has nurtured the local communities for thousands of years. The rich traditions and culture that evolved from thousands of years of community farming and fishing in these khazans is undoubtedly the greatest wealth of Goa,” the group said in a statement.
In 2022, the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority had passed an order for demolition of the structures located in the khazan fields of Merces in land in the possession of Johnny Fernandes and Shaine Fernandes. In September that year the NGT too rejected their appeals against the GCZMA order and in November later that year the Supreme Court too refused to interfere in the High Court’s orders.
Oliveira, while expressing his happiness at the High Court’s order expressed his disappointment and frustration with “the complete apathy displayed by the authorities towards the environment, refusing to demolish the structures for over a year despite his rigorous follow up.”
“I will believe his eyes only when the illegal structures are demolished and the khazans are restored to their original glory,” he said adding that there are numerous other such illegal destructions of khazans of his village and vows that he will take this battle to its logical conclusion.
Avertino Miranda, who has staunchly supported the villagers of Merces during the entire struggle, questioned the government’s intentions in not carrying out the demolition for over a year, despite the orders of the Supreme Court.
Stringent action needs to be taken
Unless strict action is taken across the State against such destruction of khazans, the Climate Crisis and resultant extreme storms, floods and sea level rise will prove to be unmanageable and disastrous for our State and people.
Adv Caroline Collasso, who represented Jose Oliveira before the NGT, expressed her happiness over the decision of the High Court, but also hoped that this will prove to be a deterrent for other would-be-violators, and set a precedent for demolition of illegal structures in the khazans of Merces and across Goa, and for the restoration of the khazans and their erstwhile glory.