Dire environmental consequences threaten Goa’s biodiversity as the Sagarmala Project comes into action after getting the green light from the government. The project has proposed to double-track railway lines, develop highways that cut through the forests of the Western Ghats and dredge channels of the Mormugao Port - expanding its capacity for larger cargo vessels - envisaging nearly a 10-fold increase in coal handling, upto 51 million tonnes annually by 2035 - essentially turning Goa into a coal corridor. The project was initiated by a trifecta of private corporations, namely Adani Group, Vedanta Resources and JSW Group.
Importing coal through Goa is substantially cheaper, hence the port’s popularity among companies such as JSW looking to make a profit by doubling coal imports to 14 million tonnes annually.
However, a huge infrastructural scheme such as this comes at the cost of irreparable damage to the city’s ecology. Being a coastal city, the sea breeze carries minute particles of coal dust which may lead to severe respiratory problems. Construction of railways and highways for coal transportation will require felling of acres of trees, damaging a large chunk of the ecosystem. Meanwhile, dredging has already weakened the seabed, almost endangering species of the rare humpback dolphins and degrading the quality of coral reefs. At least 30,000 fishermen risk losing their livelihood, some even their homes as environmentalists warn of the possibility of villages sinking.
Despite opposition from locals and environmental activists, work started on the port in 2017, allegedly even before it was cleared by the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). Although a public hearing was scheduled, the judgement was passed in favor of the Sagarmala project.
Residents of the city protested against the decision by blocking trains carrying coal to the port, yet construction continues in full swing to ensure swift import of coal to Karnataka to meet the rising demand of fossil fuels in the country.
This article has been written by Shazia Farooqui for The Paradigm
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