As ‘We Don’t Want Coal’ Chants Intensify, Goans Demand Answers

Amid growing criticism, state Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral promised that there will be caps on import of coal

Updated
My Report
4 min read

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati

I have been exploring the forests of Mollem in South Goa for many years. As a young girl, I was actively involved in animal rescue. My love for snakes led me to frequent forests, and my fondness for the state’s flora and fauna only grew thereon.

On learning about the threat being posed to Mollem's biodiversity, my desire to help protect it came naturally. Fortunately, I am not alone.

Thousands like me have been protesting the proposal of three infrastructural projects in Goa that will endanger the forests in and around Mollem National Park and Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary.

In the middle of a pandemic, while risking our lives, we gathered on the intervening night of 1 and 2 November at the railway lines of Chandor to block the doubling of the railway track.

During the coronavirus lockdown in April, a proposed four-lane highway expansion and a 400 kv transmission line within protected areas and a tiger landscape were given virtual clearances.

Locals have termed these projects as intrusions, as in-roads for more coal into the state that will make it a coal transportation hub.

From the protest on 1 November.
From the protest on 1 November.
(Photo Courtesy: Sherry Fernandes)

As a Vasco resident, I have seen the adverse effects of the coal industry on Goa's residents and forests.

“It is time for us to understand that if this thing comes through, we are going to be finished. I live in Vasco, and I know what coal has been doing to us for all these years. We are suffering, I am suffering from lung diseases, my children are suffering from them, as well.”
John C Peirera, Local 

For months, Goans have been placing their concerns before the Chairperson of the National Board of Wildlife, Mr Prakash Javadekar and the state government regarding the diversion of forest land. In October, he had refused questions about the said projects.

Letters to Env Min Bore No Fruit

A group of more than 150 scientists, over 400 students, the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, around 150 tourism stakeholders, more than 20 lawyers from across India, and several others have been writing letters to the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The leader of the Opposition party, the Aam Aadmi Party Goa, the ruling BJP’s party member and MLA, Alina Saldanha, have also written representations.

  • (Photo Courtesy: Sherry Fernandes)
  • (Photo Courtesy: Sherry Fernandes)
  • (Photo Courtesy: Sherry Fernandes)

Apart from the sociological, environmental, and livelihood impacts, the infrastructural projects stand to destroy Goa’s heritage.

“All these projects are not only damaging the ecosystem but our heritage – houses over 200 years old, and trees even older than them, are just being demolished.”
Adriel Alvares, Local 

It is also to be noted that last remaining tiger landscapes of India, and an irreplaceable part of the Western Ghats, will be endangered.

‘Development for Whom?’

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report that should be in the public domain is still not accessible for us. There has been no clarity provided to us citizens about the number of trees that will be felled. Don’t we deserve to know this?

“Our ministers have been feigning ignorance time and again and have been claiming that these projects are being done in public interest. All we ask them is to come forward and be transparent as to who the projects are really going to benefit.”
Jyotsana, Local 

Why aren't we included in these decisions that are claimed will benefit us?

From the protest on 1 November.
From the protest on 1 November.
(Photo Courtesy: Sherry Fernandes)

The government needs to listen to the people of Goa.

“Since the people of Goa didn’t want coal in the state, the government should have respected the people’s decision, but, the government didn’t. It just continued bulldozing its way, with regards to the Mollem issue, the coal issue and the Mhadei issue as well.”
Samuel Pereira, Local

India needs to stand in solidarity with the current issue Goa faces and not just remember this state when it's time for a break. If these unplanned and intrusive linear intrusions don't cease, the rest of India won't have a scenic vacation spot ever again.

Cap on Coal Imports

Amid growing criticism, state Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral promised that there will be caps on the import of coal. “Goa will not be a coal hub at all” he said in a press conference on 3 November.

LIVE: Press Conference of Shri. Nilesh Cabral

Posted by BJP Goa on Monday, November 2, 2020
“Officially, the chief minister will also give statement in the next 7-10 days with official letters, that will show that there will be no entry of coal in the state of Goa, whether in the form of transportation or track. What is existing ie 10-12 tonnes annually, might continue for some time.”
Nilesh Cabral

(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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