On November 1, Sunday, massive protests broke out in Goa as thousands assembled at the railroad track in Chandor (South Goa) to protest the South Western Railways’ double-tracking venture, supposedly being carried out to transport coal from the state to steel plants in north Karnataka.
Demonstrators said that this will make Goa a coal transportation centre, posing a risk the state’s environmental diversity, while favouring major coal companies. Uniting under the slogan “Goyant Kollso Naka,” (We don’t need coal in Goa), a huge number of protestors held an all-night vigil at Chandor from midnight to 5 am on November 2, with candlelight walks, raising mottos to the beat of drums, and blocking the railroad line where double-tracking work was set to begin.
“If an ordinary citizen wants to construct even a wall on their own property they require Panchayat’s permission, they require clearances. Yet for such a big project the railways do not have requisite permissions. Last night’s work was being done without the Panchayat’s permission.
Moreover, wildlife clearance has not been acquired, as well as clearance from the National Tiger conservation board, all clearances with regards to the project for the entire line is still pending with the regional office in Bangalore. Yet railways continue to work illegally. We noted that without land acquisition, construction is happening in many private properties blatantly and illegally,” said Deepika D’Souza, the Secretary of Goyant Kollso Naka(GKN), as reported by The Citizen.
For the past one week, railroad specialists have been working on multiplying the railroad tracks after dusk. As of now, the state serves as a significant connect to coal transportation to Karnataka. Be that as it may, in spite of the existing framework, the government is looking to fast-track the transportation handle by presenting three major framework ventures, which is confronting firm restriction from nearby residents.
"If these projects happen, it will create havoc in Goa. Threat to the Mollem forest is endangering the homes of many species."
— #LetMeBreathe ™ 😷 (@LetMeBreathe_In) November 4, 2020
This setup may involve major deforestation at Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park on the border of Goa and will harshly impact the overall environmental balance of the State. Further, this can potentially wreck Goa’s coast, fisheries, waterways, towns, the Western Ghats, backwoods, and the very essence of Goa. This is why the people of Goa are out in the city with the intent to prevent coal transportation from Goa.
As stated by Abhijeet Prabhudesai, the Co-convenor, GKN, People’s Movement, this protest is likely to continue until the demands receive a valid response. He also added, “By sitting on the tracks here, we want to tell the government that we are vehemently opposed to the projects of double-tracking. We will prove to the government that we are not approving its plan to make Goa a coal hub.”
— InUth (@InUthdotcom) November 5, 2020
The people who gathered to protest questioned the Power Minister, Nilesh Cabral’s, absence at the protests, and the inability to answer the people’s questions. The protests continue as an attempt to thwart the commencement of the work. The protestors warned the government of massive agitations if it fails to listen to the voice of people.
The BJP-led coalition government in Goa, meanwhile, has reiterated that this is an “apprehension” in the minds of the citizens that Goa will be converted into a coal hub. They claimed that there would no harm to the natural resources of Goa. It will now be extremely important to watch how the government responds to such a massive protest which is likely to intensify if not addressed adequately.