Goa's heritage church complex under threat, oppn writes to Unesco

Panaji, Nov 29 (IANS): The 17th century Old Goa Church complex, a Unesco World Heritage Site, faces threat of encroachment of its boundaries by real estate developers in the wake of a recent move to incorporate the area under an urban planning authority, former deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai has alleged in a letter to the UN body on Sunday.

Sardesai, who heads the Goa Forward party which has three legislators in the Goa Legislative Assembly, also said in his letter to Unesco Director Mechtild Rossler that the church complex located in Ela village near Panaji, could face the prospects of high rise buildings in its close proximity, if the state administration formally approves the incorporation the village under the aegis of the Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority of Goa.

Ela vis currently under the jurisdiction of a local village panchayat and the Opposition has expressed fear, that if the area is brought under the Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority, it would lead to a surge in high rise apartment complexes.

"On November 20, I was alerted and alarmed to learn that the government of Goa decided to place the Ela village 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," Sardesai said in his letter.

"Under these provisions, the government of Goa could allow building height to reach 30 meters in various commercial zones as against the nine-meter height restriction which are currently allowed," he added.

Construction of the church complex was completed in the 17th century.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the Church complex, which is located around 10 km from Panaji.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, which is the key heritage building in the complex, also holds the relics of Fr. Francis Xavier, a Spanish Saint, who died in the mid 1500s.

However, increased real estate development around the heritage site, a government project to treat garbage, has triggered controversy over the last few years.

The Opposition has criticised the move and has demanded that it be scrapped before the upcoming feast dedicated to the Spanish saint which is held every year on December 3.

In the letter, Sardesai, who formerly headed the state government's Town and Country Planning Department, has also urged the international cultural community to "stand united with the people of Goa" against the proposed move.



Comment on this article

  • juliana, udupi

    Sun, Nov 29 2020

    The body of the Saint is present in the church since hundreds of years due to which religeous flock to the site from all over the world. There are many churches dedicated to this Saint in India. Having such a solemn relic is identification of Goa otherwise nobody will desire to see the place with such devotion. It should be taken care by the Governemnt as early as possible and preserved in its natural status since a UNESCO recognised place.

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