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Why Has a Paver Road Through Mollem National Park Angered Goans?

The construction of a paver road from Mollem to Dudhsagar has environment activists in Goa worried. Here's why.

Updated
Climate Change
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>The construction of a 26km long paver road from Mollem to Dudhsagar has environment activists in Goa worried.</p></div>
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The Mollem National Park in Goa, in the Western Ghats — one of the eight hottest biodiversity spots in the world — is back in headlines as citizens and climate activists have raised concerns over the construction of a 26km-long paver road from Mollem to Dudhsagar.

Approximately 10km-long stretch of this road passes entirely through the Mollem National Park and is protected under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1975, which states that any construction activity within a protected forest area requires a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from state wildlife advisory board or the standing committee of the national board of wildlife.

The Goa Foundation, a group of environmental activists based out of Goa, has moved the High Court of Bombay at Goa seeking an order to stop all development and construction work within the Mollem National Park.

The Bombay High Court at Goa has now stayed further construction of a paver road from Collem to Dudhsagar in the Mollem National Park. The court has permitted the PWD to carry out routine repair and maintenance activities and seek the approval of Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife for other projects.

What is this paver road project? Why are environmentalists and climate activists concerned, and what are the threats to Mollem's biodiversity?

Why Has a Paver Road Through Mollem National Park Angered Goans?

  1. 1. What Is The Paver Road Project & Why Are Environmentalists Concerned?

    Earlier in August, environmental activists from The Goa Foundation were informed by several residents from villages near the Mollem National Park that certain 'construction activities' are being carried out inside the park.

    The Quint spoke to Goa-based environmental activist Claude Alvares who is also the director of The Goa Foundation. Alvares told us that bulldozers are actively working in the National Park and culvert pipes and rubble have been brought in, in large number.

    "From what we know so far, the plan is to build an all-weather paver road which will involve almost daily movement of approximately 240 jeeps carrying visitors and tourists. Earlier, this used to happen only outside the monsoon season. The new road will allow traffic movement throughout the year. This is a serious problem because the sanctuary gets its chance to recover only during the four months of monsoon."
    Claude Alvares, Environmentalist
    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Construction work being carried out at the Mollem National Park.</p></div>

    Construction work being carried out at the Mollem National Park.

    (Photo:Twitter/SaveMollen Campaign)

    The paver road project was given a nod by the Chief Wildlife Warden under powers granted by Section 33 of the Wildlife Act which enables the Warden to construct roads in the protected areas in the interest of the sanctuary and the wildlife.

    "How the construction of this road is in the interest of the wildlife is beyond my understanding," Alvares said.

    Several citizen and environment groups also raised this issue on Twitter.

    The Goa Foundation has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court in Goa, challenging the construction of this road.

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Is The Mollem National Park Important?

    The Mollem National Park, also called Bhagwan Mahaweer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, is a 240 square kilometres protected area in Goa, along the eastern border of Karnataka.

    Declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1969, the core area of the Bhagwan Mahaweer Sanctuary spanning over 107 square kilometres was notified as the Mollem National Park in 1978.

    The sanctuary has a vast variety of flora and fauna and several tourist attractions like Tamdi Surla Temple, the Dudhsagar Falls, and the Devil's Canyon.

    In May 2019, two tigers were spotted in this park, the first sightings in Goa since 2013. The sanctuary is home to many popular and endangered species of wild mammals and birds, including the malabar giant squirrel, mouse deer, pangolin, drongo, and emerald dove.
    Expand
  3. 3. Other Infra Development Projects and The Threat to Mollem's Biodiversity

    In 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Government of India sanctioned three major development projects in the Mollem National Park.

    These projects are:

    • Laying a 400 KiloVolt Transmission Line

    • Double-Tracking an existing railway line

    • Expanding the existing National Highway-4A

    During the Goa Assembly session in July 2020, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told the house that approximately 70,000 trees would be cut down for the three projects.

    After massive protests by citizens and climate activists, Leader of Opposition, Digambar Kamat, wrote to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court raising concerns about the clearance given to these projects.

    In April 2021, the Supreme Court panel raised several serious concerns regarding the environmental impact of these projects.

    In this report by The Quint from November 2020, environment journalist Bahar Dutt explains why Goans protested against these projects, tooth and nail.

    CEC Observations of Railway Track Expansion

    The report said that doubling of the railway track “will destroy the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats which is an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot and also one of the most important wildlife corridors of the country”.

    Calling the project "irrational, unjustified and potentially destructive", the panel observed several irregularities on the part of the standing committee of National Board of Wildlife in granting approval for the project in the Goa.

    On Highway Expansion and Power Project

    The Committee recommended that the proposed additional 400 KV feed be redrawn and modified along the existing 220 KV line.

    This will “help in saving the precious forest cover in the ecologically fragile Western Ghats,” it stated.

    Regarding the four-laning of NH-4A, the CEC observed that the width of the under passes/over passes provided for the movement of animals by the Public Works Department were inadequate, further suggesting the PWD to make relevant changes to the plan.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Is The Paver Road Project & Why Are Environmentalists Concerned?

Earlier in August, environmental activists from The Goa Foundation were informed by several residents from villages near the Mollem National Park that certain 'construction activities' are being carried out inside the park.

The Quint spoke to Goa-based environmental activist Claude Alvares who is also the director of The Goa Foundation. Alvares told us that bulldozers are actively working in the National Park and culvert pipes and rubble have been brought in, in large number.

"From what we know so far, the plan is to build an all-weather paver road which will involve almost daily movement of approximately 240 jeeps carrying visitors and tourists. Earlier, this used to happen only outside the monsoon season. The new road will allow traffic movement throughout the year. This is a serious problem because the sanctuary gets its chance to recover only during the four months of monsoon."
Claude Alvares, Environmentalist
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Construction work being carried out at the Mollem National Park.</p></div>

Construction work being carried out at the Mollem National Park.

(Photo:Twitter/SaveMollen Campaign)

The paver road project was given a nod by the Chief Wildlife Warden under powers granted by Section 33 of the Wildlife Act which enables the Warden to construct roads in the protected areas in the interest of the sanctuary and the wildlife.

"How the construction of this road is in the interest of the wildlife is beyond my understanding," Alvares said.

Several citizen and environment groups also raised this issue on Twitter.

The Goa Foundation has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court in Goa, challenging the construction of this road.

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Why Is The Mollem National Park Important?

The Mollem National Park, also called Bhagwan Mahaweer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, is a 240 square kilometres protected area in Goa, along the eastern border of Karnataka.

Declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1969, the core area of the Bhagwan Mahaweer Sanctuary spanning over 107 square kilometres was notified as the Mollem National Park in 1978.

The sanctuary has a vast variety of flora and fauna and several tourist attractions like Tamdi Surla Temple, the Dudhsagar Falls, and the Devil's Canyon.

In May 2019, two tigers were spotted in this park, the first sightings in Goa since 2013. The sanctuary is home to many popular and endangered species of wild mammals and birds, including the malabar giant squirrel, mouse deer, pangolin, drongo, and emerald dove.

Other Infra Development Projects and The Threat to Mollem's Biodiversity

In 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Government of India sanctioned three major development projects in the Mollem National Park.

These projects are:

  • Laying a 400 KiloVolt Transmission Line

  • Double-Tracking an existing railway line

  • Expanding the existing National Highway-4A

During the Goa Assembly session in July 2020, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant told the house that approximately 70,000 trees would be cut down for the three projects.

After massive protests by citizens and climate activists, Leader of Opposition, Digambar Kamat, wrote to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court raising concerns about the clearance given to these projects.

In April 2021, the Supreme Court panel raised several serious concerns regarding the environmental impact of these projects.

In this report by The Quint from November 2020, environment journalist Bahar Dutt explains why Goans protested against these projects, tooth and nail.

CEC Observations of Railway Track Expansion

The report said that doubling of the railway track “will destroy the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats which is an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot and also one of the most important wildlife corridors of the country”.

Calling the project "irrational, unjustified and potentially destructive", the panel observed several irregularities on the part of the standing committee of National Board of Wildlife in granting approval for the project in the Goa.

On Highway Expansion and Power Project

The Committee recommended that the proposed additional 400 KV feed be redrawn and modified along the existing 220 KV line.

This will “help in saving the precious forest cover in the ecologically fragile Western Ghats,” it stated.

Regarding the four-laning of NH-4A, the CEC observed that the width of the under passes/over passes provided for the movement of animals by the Public Works Department were inadequate, further suggesting the PWD to make relevant changes to the plan.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Published: 
Edited By :Padmashree Pande
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