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Panaji: Goa Forward Party (GFP) supremo Vijai Sardesai has written to UNESCO World Heritage Centre and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) raising concerns over the government’s permission to construct high-rise structures and several other developmental projects at Old Goa.
In the letter to the international bodies, Sardesai stated that, “Future of Old Goa faces the risk of heightened development because of administrative policies determined by Goa Government. I urge the international cultural community to stand united with Goa to preserve our history.”
Sardesai inferred that Old Goa is home to the unique soul of Goa which represents the ideals of secularism and plurality embodying the spirit of India and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Se Cathedral, Church of Saint Cajetao, and Church of Saint Augustine which have been erected in the 15th Century, are not only acclaimed cultural and historical monuments, but are symbols of faith for the numerous Goan Catholics that express their devotion to their religion and culture; most especially to the blessed remains of St. Francis Xavier, Sardesai informed.
Sardesai further stated that on the November 20, 2020, he was surprised to learn that the government of Goa decided to place the Ella village of Old Goa under the Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority of Goa. “This is a brazen act of poaching and encroachment of boundaries determined by the UNESCO in 1986. Under these provisions, the government of Goa could allow building height to reach 30 meters in various commercial zones as against the 9-meter height restriction which are currently allowed,” he stated.
As a voice and advocate for the people and culture of Goa, we have begun raising this issue amongst the local population and have demanded the government of Goa, the Chief Minister of the State; Pramod Sawant, and the Town and Country Planning Minister of the State; Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar – to immediately and effectively withdraw their decision before the December 3, 2020, the feast day of St Francis Xavier.
However, my concerns remain that the government of Goa may choose to ignore our plea and move ahead with development of high-rise structures coming as close as 100 meters to the UNESCO site, he added.
Seeking the intervention of the international bodies Sardesai stated, “I urge you UNESCO, ICOMOS, to #SaveOldGoa for the people and future of Goa which now stands at risk, and I seek your help in restoring the soul of Goa. This is a protest we are not willing to give up on, and I urge the international cultural community to stand united with the people of Goa to defend and preserve the future of our history.”