The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed on Thursday that a 10-member panel should be set up to examine the feasibility of an upcoming four-lane highway in Goa, that would require filling up of large ponds and fertile wetlands locally known as ‘khazan lands, especially in South Goa.
The tribunal issued the order while hearing a petition filed by a local activist named Royla Fernandes, who said had expressed fear in her plea that the highway would destroy the water-bodies and agricultural lands along its route, thereby causing flooding and inundation of the areas in the vicinity.
The tribunal in its order said that the 10-member expert panel should include members of the state-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, Public Works Department, Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority, Collector South Goa, Water Resources Department officials, a member of the State Pollution Control Board, and representatives from the National Wetland Authority and the Forest Department.
“A meeting of the committee may be held within two weeks and after taking stock of the situation, a plan of action may be prepared and executed,” the tribunal headed by Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
“There can be no doubt that water bodies, wetlands, mangroves, and other natural resources need to be protected. While construction of a road may be a necessity, such construction should not result in the destruction of biodiversity and other environmental resources, including water bodies and wetlands. Flood plains of river Sal also need to be protected,” the tribunal said.
Residents of the areas through which the highway has been proposed had also petitioned the Goa government in the past, questioning the route of the four-lane project, while also demanding that the proposed road should be constructed using stilts in order to lessen the impact of the project on the wetlands and other water bodies along its route.