Environmentalists oppose 3 infrastructure projects in Goa, CM Pramod Sawant suspects ‘foreign hand’

Hindustan Times, Panaji | ByGerard de Souza | Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi
Aug 14, 2020 08:32 AM IST

The clearances given to the projects have been challenged before the Central Empowered Committee as well as the Bombay high court.

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said on Thursday that he suspected the involvement of a foreign hand in opposition to projects in the state. Swant was talking about the protests against three projects - the Railway double tracking, the highway four laning and a power line all of which will pass through the wildlife sanctuaries and come at a huge cost to the environment.

File photo of Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant.(ANI Photo)
File photo of Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant.(ANI Photo)

Speaking at the sidelines of an event, Sawant said that the opposition was more from abroad, than from locals residing in the vicinity.

“The opposition is coming from Africa, England and Russia. Those who have not seen Goa and Mollem, are now commenting about it from foreign countries. On the other hand, those who stay in Mollem, say that if the road is widened it will be beneficial to them,” Sawant claimed.

“We want power and water 24x7. We want good transport and road facilities. And at the same time we also need a good environment. Government is not keen on destroying the environment. We want to preserve it. If we cut 10 trees, we replant 100 trees. People do not understand this,” Sawant also said.

Sawant’s comments come a day after a BJP leader at a press conference defended the project claiming the trio of projects would be beneficial for the state while also benefiting the wildlife.

“It is because those in the past built infrastructure that today we are benefitting from it. What we build today, the future generations will thank us for,” a former BJP legislator Siddharth Kuncalienkar, said with the government and party eager to push back to the mounting opposition to the projects that will slice through the western ghats.

The campaigners against the projects have, however, hit back at the ruling party.

“Any observer including the BJP needs to be clear that destruction is not equal to development of the state and is a fallacy unless ‘the state’ now means ‘wealthy individuals and selected business interests’,” a statement issued by the group campaigning against the projects said.

The activists have long believed that the projects, especially the railway line, is being built solely to facilitate the transport of imported coal from Goa’s Mormugao Port to steel plants in North Karnataka for whom Goa is the closest port.

The railway line, by far the biggest of the three projects, will come at a cost of diversion of 113.857 hectares of forest land and felling of 18,541 trees. The second project - the four-laning of the existing two-lane highway that was constructed by the Portuguese colonial government between Panaji in Goa and Belgavi in Karnataka - will cost 31.015 hectares of forest land and 12,097 trees. Thirdly, a 400KV power line - 3.5 km of which passes through protected forest area - is also proposed. It will provide additional feed to Goa.

These clearances have now been challenged before the Central Empowered Committee as well as the Bombay high court at Goa on grounds that they have been cleared in haste and threaten the rich bio-diversity of the region.

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