The Goa government plans to reduce coal handling at the Mormugao port by 50%, chief minister Pramod Sawant said Sunday while speaking during an interaction with children who had called on him to urge him to stop coal import because of pollution in localities around the port and railway line.
The children met Sawant while he was exiting a function.The children who were accompanied by a few adults, carried placards demanding the stoppage of coal import to reduce pollution. The group was part of a larger anti-coal import agitation in Goa.
Sawant, who last week met Union Minister for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya said efforts were on to reduce the quantity of coal imported through the port by exploring other commodities or services that could be promoted at the port.
“I assure you coal import and handling will drop by 50 per cent. We will reduce coal and are in the process of stopping it as soon as possible. We cannot stop it altogether. Industries are on (have been running) for 40 years,” Sawant said.
“There are 2,000 people working there. They also have small children. We have to give them other employment first and then stop coal. Once the other work starts, we will reduce coal and completely shut it down. Give us some time,” Sawant said.
Around 12-14 million metric tons of coal and coke is imported via Goa’s Mormugao Port primarily by steel units in north Karnataka. Goa has seen intermittent protests against the state government’s plans to enhance the coal handling at the port as envisaged under the Sagarmala programme.
The protests intensified over the last few months after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests cleared a plan for double tracking of a railway line passing through the Western Ghats coupled with other infrastructure projects, which environmentalists have said is being done solely to enhance the coal ferrying capacity via rail from the port to the industries in the hinterland.
A Change.org petition asking for the scrapping of the projects started by a group of students has garnered around 150,000 signatures over a few days.
“It will spell permanent damage to the tiger’s habitat, as the path of the project was already marked as tiger reserve by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. In this region other than trees, there are 5,000 flowering plant species, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species and 325 globally threatened species of wildlife reside here. The doubling of railway lines project is set up for coal transport across states and in order to connect with the Mormugao port which will bring out a lot of pollution,” says the petition.
However, Sawant has said that the projects will bring other benefits as well.
“People think double tracking is being done for coal. We are creating infrastructure for passengers and other commodities too,” he said.
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