In conversation with Avertino Miranda. An environmental activist and Coordinator in the Goa Green Brigade and part of the resistance in Goa against the 3 projects passed by the government.
Why are people in Goa protesting and what are they protesting against?
Avertino Miranda (AM): There are 3 projects proposed by the government and they are trying to implement them. One is a transmission line passing through the very dense forests of the Western Ghats, double-tracking of the western railway lines, and the third was the expansion of the national highway which passes us through the national highway.
We do not want the destruction of these forests, which are very pristine and important lungs of Goa, and also a part of the Western Ghats which cannot be destroyed.
Why is the government pushing these projects despite opposition?
AM: Adani is saving 51 rupees per tonne(of coal) if they take it through Goa. We are saying take it directly, the coal is coming from Australia and Indonesia, they can take it through the Eastern Coast and take it directly. For the sake of 51 rupees per tonne, they are out to destroy all of Goa.
We cannot accept coal because the entire city of Goa will be covered by coal dust. The port city of Vasco is already choking with coal dust due to the Marmagao harbor where they offload the coal and take it via trucks and trains. 12 to 15 million tonnes have already been taken through Goa. We want to stop it and they want to increase it to 15 million tonnes.
What Will the Future of goa look like if all 3 projects are completed?
AM: Goa will be completely destroyed. The politicians and the ruling class don’t care about the consequences. The environment will be destroyed, Goa will get concretized, people will fall sick due to the pollution, and the tourism sector will die. Nobody will want to come to Goa if there is so much coal dust. It’s one of the most destructive projects Goa has ever faced, we didn’t even face such projects during the Portuguese colonial rule.
Besides causing health issues, the coal dust and the infrastructure expansion to carry more coal through Goa will cause destruction of ancestral heritage homes, will also destroy livelihoods and several fertile farmlands will be destroyed to make way for the expansion of railway tracks and high way roads.
What happened on Liberation day? Are the reports that the police were detaining high school students true?
AM: Yeah, not only students but anyone who was passing by that area was arrested. Some youths who were crossing the road to have a cup of tea, even they were picked up. Not only that, the previous night we had a protest at a village called Arossim, a village in the South of Goa. A beautiful place which will be destroyed soon if they go ahead with the project. We blocked the Adani trains around 10:30 at night on the 18th of December. We notified the police and everything about the protest.
We continued until 3:30 in the morning, around which time they brought the police, armed police with tear gas shells to attack us, then we decided to disengage because they had the clearance to attack us. There were only 1000 or so of us, so we decided to call off that protest. 11 of our activists have been charged with FIRS.
When you try to fight for justice, the state will always use its tools to oppress it.
Were stakeholders and citizens consulted before these 3 projects were steamrolled through?
AM: Nobody was consulted. The transition line has already been rejected by the Karnataka government. They have refused for it to go through their forest area. We don’t understand the reason the Goa government is allowing it to go through its forests. The Goa Branch of the Bombay High Court(which works as the High Court Of Goa) has put a stay on the construction of the transition line.
What is the future of the protests and how do you plan to put a stop to what Adani is trying to do?
AM: We have to intensify our struggle because now the government is trying to oppress us, it’s very clear. They want to suppress the movement, they want to use false cases. Every citizen of this country has the right to protest peacefully. We have been protesting peacefully but the state wants to use force to oppress us. Our demands are genuine, our demands are to protect the environment, our demands are to save not only the forest but also to uphold the law. The government which is supposed to enact the law is breaking its own laws.
The railway and highway expansion still need to be stopped, there is no traffic to justify highway expansion. Politicians and governments love megaprojects because of the kickbacks they carry.
People are coming out in large numbers. We have not seen protests in these numbers for a long time in Goa. We are seeing huge participation. They are trying to implement it but we are resisting it. In some parts of Goa, they try to do construction in the middle of night but now people are very alert and immediately gather if they do any work.
A few times, When they try to construct something, the people come protest, and make the contractor remove all the material and take it back. They haven’t acquired the land yet but are dumping material and destroying farmland.
What would your message be to people who are not from Goa?
AM: Goa has always been a green and clean place. People from all over India want to come and see Goa. If these projects are allowed, Goa will never be the same again. It will be totally black with coal and that will be the saddest part.
We are constantly fighting and resisting, this is a resistance movement against the destruction of Goa. Not even the colonial rulers of Portugal had destroyed Goa to such an extent which the BJP government is intending to do. They have already cut 1000s of trees and are going to cut 2 lakh trees.
There will be nothing left in Goa to see. The entire greenery will be destroyed in the name of ‘development’. We don’t need this development, this development is for the Adanis. Adani Coal brings no benefits to Goa. We don’t need coal, we need to go for renewable resources and energy.
These are environmentally destructive projects, we don’t need them. There will be nothing left of Goa.
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