When you think of Goa you can immediately smell the salty fresh air and picture the beautiful palm trees and scenic beaches that are far cleaner than Mumbai’s. You most surely don’t think of railway tracks and big industrial projects.
This is exactly the reason why angry Goans gathered on Sunday at the Chandor railway lines in South Goa. The plan for extending the tracks by almost twice it’s current size has been made to accommodate the various trains that would be coming into the state with coal. Since this plan requires acres of deforestation to take place, it has been met with widespread protest and dissent as it would seriously harm Goa’s rich ecology.
There are plans to make Goa into a concrete jungle
The 3 Adani projects that are funded by the government aim at increasing the number of south western railway tracks that run through Goa by almost two fold. These projects essentially favour the coal companies and support their cause in making Goa the new ‘Coal Hub’. In fact, the project has been fast tracked to such an extent that authorities shave already begun work on this.
The project in question is the two fold extension of the Hospet-Tinaighat-Vasco railway line in the states of Karnataka and Goa. Activists claim that this project is being built with the sole purpose of facilitating more coal transport between the coal and steel plants of Karnataka.
While the first phase of this project was in relatively barren land, the second phase of this project is inciting protests since it involves destruction of the environment and the rich forests that populate Goa.
Goa’s ecology is at threat
The second phase of the project passes through wildlife sanctuaries crossing the steep slopes, raging rivers and the thick forests of the Western Ghats. Construction of the tracks will require cutting down trees that are almost 1000 years old at the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and a national park on the border of Goa, potentially disrupting the water supply of the state.
"Goans are shocked and angry to discover that plans are made to convert Goa into a coal hub. The Sagarmala documents reveal that Goa has planned to carry about 137 million tons of coal every year. This is going to devastate Goa's coast, fisheries, rivers, villages, Western Ghats, forests and the very essence of Goa. That is why people of Goa are out on the streets with the demand to stop coal transportation from Goa. This is a people's movement. As a first step at Chandor, the double railway tracking works which are part of the coal infrastructure were stopped. This will carry on until demands are met," Abhijeet Prabhudesai, Co-convenor, GKN, People's Movement tells India Today.
In fact, mass devastation by mud filling of water bodies like lakes, khazans, rivers, our agricultural lands, fields, etc has already been observed in places like Chandor and Guirdolim’.
Candlelight vigils, peaceful protests were held at the railway tracks
A group of activists called ‘Goyant Kollso Naka’ (We don’t want coal in Goa) has taken the pledge to fervently oppose the double-tracking and even began questioning officials about this project since it is yet to receive approval as per the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). The candlelight vigil began at 10:30 pm on Sunday and continued until the early hours of Monday morning. These protests garnered the support of opposition parties with Goa Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat saying “These projects will affect the wildlife, forest and the identity of Goa. The CLP ( Congress Legislature Party) unanimously resolved to extend full support to the people’s protests and agitations raising concerns about the mass destruction of the environment and identity of Goa. The CLP also decided to actively participate in the protests with people. ”
Social media campaigns are also being used to get people’s attention
As news of these protests and Even students, various environmental activist and social media influencers have taken to social media to try and educate the public on the ongoing crisis. Talks about Mollem, the village where the doubling will begun is said to be the heart of the ecological setup and any destruction to this could severely affect the rich ecosystem.
The Instagram page @mymollem.goa shared posts on how the fragmentation of forests for doubling of the tracks would harm the wildlife through heartbreaking pictures.
While stopping this construction requires systemic intervention, we as citizens can do our bit and spread the word and educate others and even participate in various other ways to help this cause. The page @mollem.memory.project perfectly articulates everything that you can do (Even if you are not in Goa) to prevent the rich ecology of Goa from being completely ruined by the hands of capitalism.
You can even click this link to do your bit and save Goa since it is so much more than just your favourite holiday destination, it is the home of the wildlife and vegetation that has been flourishing there since before humans decided to get greedy.