Black gold: Goa’s tryst with coal so far

 

The first day of public hearing in regards to the dredging project was held today.  MLA Alina Saldanha, Alexio Reginaldo, Members of the civil Society and concerned citizens attended the Day 1 of MPT public hearing in Vasco. Locals present at the venue complained that the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) was conducting the hearing in violation of EIA norms. The board had failed to circulate the report in local language to the surrounding residents hence the locals demanded the hearing to be postponed.

Despite the protest, Pollution Control Board continued the hearing. All the speakers present at the scene opposed the expansion of the project and termed the holding of the hearing by Pollution Control Board illegal.

Curtorim MLA Alexio Reginaldo Lorenco threatened the Pollution Control Board of serious consequences if given a green signal to the project. He also said that, Locals will not be quiet.

Mormugao port is considered one of the best natural ports in India. It is one of the major ports under the central government. In early 90’s, the port began to handle coal.

Background

Coal would be imported in ships and transported to steel plants in Karnataka using goods trains and trucks.

Most of the coal at the port would be kept in heaps without a cover. Coal dust from these heaps would be carried by sea breeze eastwards to Vasco, a port town.

The situation polluted the air, which the residents breath. After complains from the public, two berths closest to the city were asked to be closed.

Later though, enclosed facilities were suggested to be built on the same berths that were closed. Only now coal would be transported to these berths and stored in silos and domes. Even after this there are other berths that have open air heaps.

Future

A prominent NGO has accused the government of not being clear in its intentions. It’s allegation are that Mormugao port would be turned into a coal handling hub.

Coal would be transported from Goa to steel plants in Karnataka. The demand for coal in these plants is said to grow over the next few years as most of them are considering expansion.

This is where the dredging work in the River Zuari is said to feature. Dredging will increase the depth of river to 20 meters. This will allow bigger ships to dock at the port. Probably allow bigger ships to carry more coal to the port.

There are also road projects that are being planned in Goa to turn the two lane highways into four lane highways that lead to Karnataka.

A double tracking project of the railway line is being undertaken. Which according to some activist is an attempt to prepare the infrastructure to handle transportation of coal through Goa to Karnataka.

Serious questions are being raised on the environmental clearances granted to all these projects.

By allowing Goa to become a coal hub the steel factories in Karnataka will have a cheaper alternative to import coal from Goa rather then depending on the ports situated on the eastern coast of India.

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