Green activists to renew protest as Goa port gets centre’s clearance for coal expansion
Green activists in Goa vowed to renew and intensify their protests amid approval by the union ministry of environment forests and climate change for expanding the capacity of coal terminals at Goa’s Mormugao Port, operated by South West Port Ltd (SWPL)
Green activists in Goa vowed to renew and intensify their protests amid approval by the union ministry of environment forests and climate change for expanding the capacity of coal terminals at Goa’s Mormugao Port, operated by South West Port Ltd (SWPL).
The proposal that was submitted in 2017 by the company to enhance the capacity for handling coal and coal products, iron ore and limestone, was on hold owing to a ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which ruled ‘no fresh permissions could be considered’ until the state finalises its coastal zone management plan– a document that was finalised in September last year.
“Despite our protests and petitions, the environment clearance (EC) was granted. We strongly condemn this and wish to remind the government that when the public hearings were held, thousands of speakers objected against the drafted plans,” said Olencio Simoes of Goa Against Coal– a people’s collective protesting against the anticipated expansion of coal import at Goa’s Mormugao Port in Vasco da Gama.
“We demand that this EC be taken back. Today pollution in Vasco is at a peak. This will be the death of the people of Vasco,” he added.
The MoEF’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) on January 11 formally granted the EC and considered the expansion project after several review meetings held in 2017 and another meeting in November 2018.
“We will explore all the options, including legal. We will travel the state and gather people for what will be the last battle for Goa,” Viriato Fernandes, a former Navy man and activist protesting against the EC grant, said.
SWPL operates berths 5A and 6A at the Mormugao Port since 2004 and has now sought to modernise the loading and unloading system at the berth.
As part of the project, SWPL said that it is proposing to deploy “highly mechanised and efficient environment-friendly material handling systems.” According to SWPL, this will help reduce environmental pollution by retrofitting state-of-the-art dust entrapment systems to meet its demand.
The proposed expansion plans have met with stiff resistance in Goa, especially around the Port town of Vasco da Gama.
In 2018, the Goa state pollution control board too revoked the consent to operate after questions of air quality and the Port’s own records revealed that it was handling more coal than it was allowed to under the terms of its consent.
Goa has seen intermittent protests against the government’s plans to enhance the coal handling at the Port as was envisaged under the Sagarmala Programme (an initiative by the government of India to enhance the performance of the country’s logistics sector. The programme envisages unlocking the potential of waterways and the coastline to minimise infrastructural investments required to meet these targets).
The protests intensified over the last few months after the union ministry of environment and forests cleared a plan for double tracking of a railway line passing through the Western Ghats coupled with other infrastructure projects, which environmentalists said is being done solely to enhance the coal ferrying capacity via rail from the Port to the industries hinterland.