Illegal borewell:Bombay High Court directs Goa Coastal Authority to inspect Calangute and Candolim beach
The Bombay High Court at Goa directed Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority GCZMA, to immediately cause an inspection of Calangute and Candolim beach stretches in the context of allegations about soak pits and bore wells within the Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) areas of Candolim and Calangute beach stretches.
The Division Bench of Justice M. S. Sonak and Justice Bharat P. Deshpande heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) flagging several issues concerning the illegalities on the Calangute and Candolim beaches.
The Department of Tourism has placed before the High Court a preliminary report concerning the Candolim and Calangute beach stretches.
The report concerning the Candolim stretch shockingly discloses that about 23 bore wells were illegally dug and installed. These bore wells are mainly around shacks that the Department of Tourism has permitted. These shacks extract and utilize water from such bore wells.
Sulekha Kamat , confirmed that such bore wells are not permitted in terms of the shack policy. She further affirms that no permissions were granted for boring such wells under the Goa Ground Water Regulation Act, 2002 and Rules 2003. Accordingly, these bore wells appear to be wholly illegal and unauthorized. Moreover, the beach stretch is an ecologically sensitive zone affected by CRZ Notification. In all probability, such boring activities might have been prohibited in that area. Be that as it may, based on the statement of Ms Kamat, the Court noted that these bore wells have been put up without permission from any authorities.
Accordingly, the Court directed Respondents to immediately seal such bore wells and take necessary steps to ensure that these bore wells are not used. A compliance report should be filed before the High Court on 14.02.2023 without offering any excuses. If the police authorities are to be involved, then they must render all cooperation. The photographs should be produced on record along with the compliance report.
Further, the report in so far as it concerns Candolim beach stretch indicates that 17 shacks have constructed soak pits. Ms Kamat, based on the instructions from Mr Dheeraj Wagle, states that in terms of the permissions granted to such shacks, they are not supposed to construct soak pits. Moreover, Ms Kamat says that no licenses were given for constructing soak pits. Therefore, at least prima facie, the erection of such soak pits would amount to a breach of terms and conditions of the shack license based on which these shacks are being operated on the Candolim beach.
Accordingly, Ms Kamat, based on instructions from Mr Wagle, states that the show cause notices will be issued to these 17 shacks requiring them to show cause as to why their operations should not be shut down and licenses should not be revoked for prima facie breach. Such show cause notices should be issued by 17.02.2023, granting a week to the shack holders to respond. Further, such show cause notices must be disposed of by 20.02.2023 latest without offering any excuses. Finally, the shack licensees must also be granted an opportunity to remedy the prima facie default on their part within this period if they choose to.
In so far as the Calangute beach stretch is concerned, the report refers only to the status of about 19 shacks. Ms Kamat, however, admitted that shack licenses had been issued to 108 shacks. The Court is disappointed at the delay in the inspection. However, it is not as if the Calangute stretch is so large that the inspection could not have been completed by this time. Therefore, the matter was adjourned on 31.01.2023 to enable the authorities to complete the inspection. Consequently, the High Court directed the authorities to complete the inspection as early as possible and in any case, not later than 15.02.2023.
Further, the preliminary report submitted to the Court indicates the construction of bore wells and soak pits. Therefore, the directions regarding the Candolim stretch are reiterated and directed to apply to the Calangute stretch. The immediate action as directed in respect of Candolim will also have to be taken in respect of bore wells and soak pits on the Calangute stretch. The timelines now will apply to the Calangute beach stretch also.
At the request of Rohit Bras De Sa , Counsel for the Petitioner, the High Court permitted the impleadment of the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) and Water Resources Department, Government of Goa, as Respondent Nos. 5 and 6.
The High Court directed the officials of Water Resources Department (WRD) to inspect at the earliest the beach stretches at Candolim and Calangute in the context of reports filed before us and the allegations of several soak pits and bore wells on these beach stretches.
Further, the Court also directed GCZMA, to immediately cause an inspection of Calangute and Candolim beach stretches in the context of allegations about soak pits and bore wells within the CRZ areas of Candolim and Calangute beach stretches. For example, suppose the GCZMA finds that the shacks have undertaken unauthorized activities like boring of wells and erecting soak pits in the beach areas. In that case, it is expected that the GCZMA should take immediate action as contemplated by law. ‘It is open to the above authorities to hold a joint inspection should they feel this is desirable. However, this should not be stated as an excuse for non-compliance of our directions within the timeline indicated.’
Ms Kamat states that the authorities under the Goa Ground Water Regulation Act, 2002 and Rules 2003 carry the impression that they are powerless to act against illegal and unauthorized bore wells unless there is a complaint by anyone.
According to the Court , this is not only misreading the provisions of the Act and Rules but also a convenient device to shirk discharging duties that the law cast on such authorities.
Section 14 of the said Act deals with the powers of the Ground Water Officer regarding the closure of the well and seizure of materials and equipment. This Section provides that on a complaint made or otherwise about any contravention of any of the provisions of this Act, the Ground Water Officer may, by an order in writing, call upon the owner or the person in possession of the well to stop the extraction of water and any other contravention forthwith. Therefore, it is apparent that the Ground Water Officer is empowered to act not only when there is a complaint but also when contravention of the provisions of the Act is noticed by him, even otherwise, the Bench observed.
‘There are detailed provisions under the Goa Ground Water Regulation Act, 2002, to prevent unauthorized taping of groundwater. This law has been made to avoid the exploitation of groundwater, which is a precious community resource. However, we are sorry to note the authorities under this Act are not taking any serious steps to enforce the provisions of this Act.’
Matter is listed on 22.02.2023 for further hearing.