Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Goa beach’s Blue Flag certification in limbo as court stays Central notification

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The Bombay high court at Goa has stayed a fresh notification issued by the ministry of environment and forests, which relaxed the coastal regulation norms for Goa’s Miramar beach to set up facilities required for international Blue Flag certification since the ministry hasn’t explained the reasons for dispensing with the mandatory public consultation process.

Goa’s Miramar beach, located in the state capital, is one among several beaches across the country that have been identified for Blue Flag certification, an internationally recognized beach certification which gives potential visitors the assurance that the beach will maintain a minimum set standard of cleanliness and facilities for access, changing among other amenities.

In a notification first issued in July 12, 2019, the MoEF relaxed the CRZ norms allowing the setting up of facilities including container based toilet blocks, change rooms, shower panels; mini grey water treatment plant enclosed in temporary structures; Mini solid waste recycling plant enclosed in temporary structures; Off grid solar PV panels; purified drinking water kiosks; watch towers; beach information hoarding boards and beach layout map hoarding boards, etc as close as 10 metres from the High Tide Line.

As per the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, no structures, barring temporary structures specifically permitted can be set up within 200 metres from the High Tide Line.

The notification was challenged before the Bombay high court at Goa which had in October 2019, granted a temporary stay on the notification with regard to its operation at the Miramar beach, giving the Union ministry four weeks to reply.

However, when the petition came up for hearing, the petitioner Kashinath Shetye, an activist, told the court that the Union ministry has ignored the notice from the high court and instead issued a fresh notification.

“We had stayed the notification on the grounds that there were no reasons disclosed for dispensing the Public Consultative Process which was required to be followed under the Environment Protection Rules, 1986. The Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change has issued yet another order/notification dated 09.01.2020, again, declaring Blue Flag Certification in respect of Miramar beach. Even on this occasion, the Public Consultative Process has been dispensed with. We today stay the impugned notification dated 09.01.2020 to the extent it concerns the Miramar beach at Panaji until further orders,” the high court bench of justices M S Sonak and Bharati Dangre ruled.

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The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with a view to protect and conserve the environment and control and abate pollution in beaches and sea waters, has decided to identify beaches for the purpose of internationally recognised “Blue Flag” certification. Goa’s Miramar beach was one among an initial list of 12 beaches to be selected which was later expanded to include others.

In October last year, eight beaches across the country were successfully awarded the certification while Goa’s Miramar beach is yet to make headway.

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