Government panel’s nod to Goa port expansion worries experts

Updated on Feb 14, 2020 11:45 PM IST
The Mormugao Port has proposed to deepen the existing navigation channel in Vasco bay from about 14 meters to 19.5 meters over a large area with a width of about 250 meters and a length of about 10 km.
A fishermen union representative said the recommendation for environmental clearance was based on an EIA report that was flawed.(File Photo/Representative)
A fishermen union representative said the recommendation for environmental clearance was based on an EIA report that was flawed.(File Photo/Representative)
Hindustan Times, Panaji | ByGerard de Souza

An expert panel’s approval for the expansion of Goa’s Mormugoa Port will increase its coal handling capacity but result in an adverse impact on the environment, said green activists on Friday.

An expert panel of the environment ministry-- the expert appraisal committee (EAC)— had recommended the grant of environmental clearance (EC) to the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) for the deepening of the approach channel for handling Capesize vessels and for increasing the size of two berths to handle bigger cargo ships, in its January 28-29 meeting. The recommendation was made to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Capesize shipping cargo vessels are so large that they cannot pass through the Suez canal and have to go round the Cape of Good Hope, hence the name- Capesize vessels.

The Mormugao Port has proposed to deepen the existing navigation channel in Vasco bay from about 14 meters to 19.5 meters over a large area with a width of about 250 meters and a length of about 10 km.

“We are still hopeful that if we sufficiently petition the MoEF, they can yet reject the EAC’s recommendation. The MoEF will have to consider the health, coal dust and pollution issues of Vasco’s residents,” Diana Tavares, a Goa-based environment activist said.

A fishermen union representative said the clearance was based on an EIA report that was flawed.

“If you are to dredge 12 million cubic metres of sand and create a channel 12 km long and 600 metres wide, it will not just destroy us fishermen, but also potentially affect Goa’s tourism industry by causing increased erosion along the beaches,” Olencio Simoes, a representative of the ‘Goenchea Raponkarancho Ekvott’, a traditional fishermen’s union said.

The EAC in its recommendation has proposed a ban on underwater blasting and dredging during the fish breeding season along with other measures to prevent depletion of the fish stock in the area.

MPT seeks to expand the port to help compete with other government and privately run ports, both along the west and the east coasts of the country.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had halted MPTs dredging in September 2016, nine months after it first began, holding the environmental clearance to be illegal as it was done without a public hearing and didn’t follow procedures. The NGT’s order led to the organising of a marathon public hearing that lasted eight days in which residents of the port town opposed the expansion.

The MoEF had initially exempted the project from a public consultation but it was overruled by the National Green Tribunal, which noted that the dredging had begun even before the EC was granted.

Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) is a strategically located major port of the country which caters to the coal requirement of steel and power plants of the hinterlands in Karnataka. MPT has two dedicated coal berths which have a combined capacity of about 12 million tons per annum.

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