Massive protests in Goa against making state a coal hub

On the night of 1 November, braving the risk of the pandemic, hundreds of concerned residents in Goa assembled on railway lines of Chandor in South Goa to block several trains carrying Adani’s coal. They protested throughout the night criticizing a chain of government projects as well as doubling of south western railway tracks, which they claim is being done to favour coal companies and to make Goa a coal transportation hub at the cost of its ecology.

These three infrastructure projects will threaten the forests in and around Mollem National Park and Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary.  In the middle of the lockdown, the National Board for Wildlife cleared or discussed more than 30 forest clearance proposals. So far there have been six proposals submitted – two forest clearance proposals for NH-4A; three forest clearance proposals for railways; and one proposal for a transmission line – which amount to a diversion of 250.285 hectares.

Goa: Section 144 imposed as mining industry, truck and barge owners to  protest

This will allow 59,024 trees to be cut in and around Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park. Specifically, concerning the protected area, 170 hectares are planned for forest diversion.

People are protesting by sitting on the tracks, shouting out slogans, and giving speeches, bringing out vibes of hope and unity. As “If Goa is made a coal hub, no tourist will ever visit Goa; this state depends on revenue generated from tourism, and all sections of society benefits, whereas coal transportation, will benefit only three corporate”.  The Sagarmala documents reveal that Goa has planned to carry about 137 million tons of coal every year. This is going to devastate Goa’s coast, fisheries, rivers, villages, Western Ghats, forests, and the very essence of Goa.

Hundreds of wildlife species, including Schedule-I and Schedule-II endangered species such as the tiger (Panthera tigris), dhole (Cuon alpinus), mouse deer (Moschiola indica), gaur (Bos gaurus), and Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) will be threatened.

Dudhsagar is one of the tallest waterfalls (310 mts) of India, and this forest is an important revenue source for nature-based tourism. Along with Dudhsagar, hundreds of river-feeders originate in this forest and are the lifeline for the state’s water supply. 

Protests against railway expansion in Goa gather steam - india news -  Hindustan Times

The sanctuary is also home to more than 70 mammal species, 235 bird species, 219 butterfly species, 44 fish species, 45 reptile species, and 27 amphibian species. The three projects cut through different areas of the national park will increase cases of human and wildlife conflict.

Project I: 4 Laning NH 4A

The proposal to widen the highway within the protected area seeks to widen the existing double lane highway into a 4 lane highway with a total carriageway of 14 m and RoW of 26 m, largely by completely new roads held up on viaduct structures. The proposal, therefore, involves not just widening of certain sections but creating a new highway on viaducts in pristine and hitherto untouched parts of the wildlife sanctuary and national park.

This proposal involves the cutting of 12,097 trees and the diversion of about 31.015 hectares of protected forest area (24.265 in the National Park and 6.75 in the WLS).

Project 2: Transmission Line Construction

The second project is a part of the 400 kV D/C Narendra (Karnataka) – Xeldem (Goa) Transmission Line which starts at Narendra village in Dharwad District, Karnataka and terminates at 400/220 kV substation at Xeldem in Goa. The project is being carried out by M/s Goa – Tamnar Transmission Project Ltd (Sterlite Power).

About 3.15 km of the transmission line is proposed to be constructed through the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary. As per the application, the line would be 46 metre in width, requiring a diversion of 11. 54 hectares of area from the wildlife sanctuary, and involves the cutting of 4139 trees.

Project 3: Doubling of Railway Line

The third project is the Castlerock-Kulem Railway Doubling. This project is part of the larger Hospet-Tinaighat-Castelrock-Kulem-Vasco Railway doubling project being undertaken by the M/s Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL). The total length of the line is 345 km.

The railway line passes through the sanctuary in two parts, and two separate proposals have been submitted. Castlerock forests are part of the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve (DATR), in Karnataka, while forests between the Goa-Karnataka border and Kulem fall within the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWLS) in Goa.

As per the application for wildlife approvals, this project involves the diversion of 20,758 trees to be felled. Four underpasses, measuring 12 m in width and 5.65 m in height, have been

As per India today report, protestor Deepika D’Souza, Secretary of Goyant Kollso Naka – a people’s movement United to free Goa from coal pollution said, “If a common citizen desires to build even a wall on their own property they need Panchayat’s permission. Yet for such a big project the railways do not require any permission. Last night’s work was being done without any Panchayat’s permission. Furthermore, wildlife clearance has not been acquired, as well as clearance from the National Tiger conservation board, all clearances with regards to the project for the entire line is still pending with the regional office in Bangalore. Even so, railways continue to work unlawfully.

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