Noting that there is no evidence of adverse impact on the environment on account of the erection of the shacks for a temporary duration, the Bombay High Court at Goa on October 7, 2019, in the case of Shack Owners Welfare Society Goa v. State of Goa, has vacated the stay imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that had stopped shacks to come up on the state’s beaches and permitted the state government to go ahead with allotments of these temporary structures.
A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice M.S. Sonak passed the ruling while hearing two writ petitions. One filed by the Shack Owners Welfare Society of Goachallenging an interim order of the NGT that had put a stay on the erection of shacks in Goa and another filed by the State of Goa, seeking extension of time to finalise the Coastal Zone Management Plan envisaged by the CRZ notification of 2011.
On September 13, 2019, the NGT had issued the stay on the erection of shacks on the beaches of Goa, noting that unregulated development activity was resulting in damage to the environment in the absence of a Coastal Zone Management Plan.
While extending the time for finalising the Coastal Management Plan, the Tribunal had also restrained the implementation of the Shack Policy. The Shack Policy for the year 2019-2022 permits 259 shacks in North Goa and 105 shacks in South Goa on the beaches to be erected.
In appeal, the bench observed that the said Shack Policy envisages temporary beach shacks to be erected using eco-friendly material such as wooden poles, bamboos, palm leaves, palm mats, etc. Use of concrete material is absolutely banned. Grouting, plastering, laying of PCC/RCC, digging of soak pits, etc. is also prohibited.
Further, the bench noted that the CRD-2011 specifically deals with CRZ for Goa and permits temporary and seasonal structures to be erected on the beaches and to be removed and dismantled after May each year.
“In the State of Goa, since long on the beaches, shacks have existed for decades and there is no evidence of adverse impact on the environment on account of the erection of the shacks for a temporary duration. The shacks are fabricated using eco-friendly, perishable material such as wood, bamboo and palm leaves,” the bench observed.
In view of these observations, the court proceeded to permit the Goa Government to implement the Shack Policy for the year 2019-2022, holding that “The tourist season having commenced in the State of Goa and keeping in view the fact that large employment is generated under the Shack Policy, we dispose of the Petitions staying the operation of the impugned order dated 13.09.2019 passed by the National Green Tribunal pertaining to the State of Goa.”
Before parting with the plea, the court also requested the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) to expeditiously finalise the mandatory Coastal Zone Management Plan by the date notified in the NGT order.