'Can't assess projects along Goa-Karnataka border'

Can't have cumulative assessment of controversial projects along Goa-Karnataka border

The three controversial rail, road and power projects located along the Goa-Karnataka borders, which have attracted opposition here, are all "independent" in nature and it would not be possible to assess their cumulative impact, Goa's Law Minister Nilesh Cabral told the Goa legislative assembly on Wednesday. 

In his written reply tabled during the ongoing winter session of the state assembly, Cabral also ruled out a review of the three projects, which the opposition, as well as civil society groups in the state, have claimed, would lead to massive deforestation in protected forest areas and would turn the state into a coal transportation corridor to ship coal from Goa's Mormugao Port Trust facility to steel mills in Karnataka's Bellary district. 

“There is no provision to assess the cumulative impact of the projects, as they are independent in nature and proposed by different user Agencies at different time intervals,” Cabral said in his reply to a question from former Revenue Minister and independent MLA Rohan Khaunte. 

The Law Minister also said that all the three projects have been following the norms of the Forest (Conservation Act, 1980 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The three controversial projects in question involve the doubling of South Western railway tracks, expansion of the NH-4 and transmission of a power line from Karnataka to Goa, which was cleared by the National Wildlife Board amid the pandemic.

50,000 trees in and around Mollem, a village located along the Goa-Karnataka border, have been slotted for felling to make way for the three central government projects.

Activists, as well as opposition politicians in Goa, have been demanding a review of the three projects, claiming that they were hurriedly granted permission during the pandemic, without due diligence. 

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant in another written reply related to the same issue, said that all government permissions prescribed by the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests and Climate Change had been followed including requisite forest and wildlife clearances. 

“All three proposals for diversion of forest area for non-forestry purposes as per the provisions of Forest the Conservation Act, 1980 is still under process. There is no land acquisition in the Protected Area,” the Chief Minister said. 

Earlier this week, the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court examined the sites of the three projects and met government officials, as well as green activists and politicians opposing the issue. The Committee is expected to submit its report to the apex court soon.