The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has accorded Environmental Clearance (EC) to the South West Port Ltd (SWPL) on January 11 for its proposed terminal capacity enhancement at Berths 5A and 6A at Mormugao Port.
The ministry stated that SWPL’s proposal dated July 15, 2017 pertaining to ‘Proposed Terminal Capacity Enhancement at Berth 5A-6A of Mormugao Port for Handling Coal And Coal Products, Iron Ore and Limestone including Unitised and Steel Products at Mormugao Port Trust, Mormugao’, was considered by the Expert Appraisal Committee (Infra-2) in its different meetings between August 2017 and November 26-28, 2018.
“After detailed deliberations on the project, the Expert Appraisal Committee (Infra-2) has recommended the project for grant of Environmental and CRZ clearance,” stated the ministry in its report.
The ministry also stated that “any appeal against this clearance shall lie with the National Green Tribunal, if preferred, within a period of 30 days as prescribed under Section 16 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.”
The total cargo to be handled is expected to go up to 12 to 13 MTPA of bulk (consisting of coal, iron ore, lime stone, dolomite, bauxite, mineral ores and other miscellaneous cargo).
There has been public outcry over the Union Environment Ministry decision to grant EC to enhance the capacity to handle coal, coal products, iron ore, limestone and steel products at Berths 5A and 6A at MPA.
Sherwyn Correia, a Vasco-based environmental activist and a PIL petitioner in the matter, said the grant of EC is “a sad day for Goa and Goans.”
“The enhanced capacity of coal handling is bound to enhance coal dust pollution in Vasco. It is clear that the voice of the people has no place in environmental decision making.”
“The proposal had been unanimously and vehemently opposed at the 8-day long environmental public hearings in April-May 2017. Even the fervent pleas by our ex-chief minister late Manohar Parrikar to the Central government fell on deaf ears. The assurances given in the Assembly have turned to be meaningless.”
“I feel this should serve as a warning bell to Goans with regard to the State government’s tall promises on the Mhadei water diversion. We will explore all options available in law,” said Correia.
Fr Bolmax Pereira, Chicalim Parish Priest and Asst Prof of Botany, St Joseph Vaz College, added: “There we go. It’s true that the blatant lies of the government are getting exposed day by day but it’s unfortunate that Goa’s coffin is being fixed by this lying government nail by nail.”
“The blind eye turned by the State government on RVNL’s illegal double tracking has eventually turned into doubling of quantum of coal handling at the port. Will the Susegad Goykar still choose to say “Mhaka kiteak poddlam?” And will the CM still dare to say “Bhivpachi garaz na”,” asked Fr Pereira.
Dr Nandini Velho, a researcher working on the interface between science and society, said India’s coal is one of the world’s poorest quality coal – with its 45% ash content, making it some of the most polluting coal in the world.
“Coal regions are typically mono-industry areas, and any transition requires re-orienting governance itself away from these monopolies. It is becoming more and more blatant that these clearances do not pay attention to what the people of Goa want,” said Dr Velho.
Adv Richard Almeida felt it is unfortunate that such decisions are taken without even taking into consideration the impact it will have on the people and the environment of our beautiful State.
“It appears that the interest of the people and the State are sacrificed to please these companies,” said Adv Almeida.
Added Valerie Afonso of the Chicalim Youth Farmers Club: “Are we surprised?
Absolutely not. As CYFC members we were on-ground protesting against this very possibility during the Covid pandemic.”
“But our so-called citizen centric leaders were adamant that coal handling won’t be increased. False promises and betrayal have become synonyms of the incumbent government. We cannot trust them anymore. This decision only proves the dictatorial nature of this government. The habitual liars lied to the Youth of Goa.”
Goa First President Parshuram Sonurlekar said it was a shock to know that the EC had been issued.
“But we are not surprised as the Sawant government is very much keen in betrayal of Goa. The new consent will increase the problem of people residing in nearby areas such as Mormugao and Vasco as due to doubling of coal at MPA from 7.5 MTPA to 13 MTPA, the South West Port Ltd (SWPL) had failed to control pollution at current level and consent to increase coal will be difficult to handle.”
“The said consent was applied soon after the long public hearing at Tilak Maidan Vasco, which was against the same consent and the environment ministry has given the same consent which was opposed by the people. I simply don’t understand what will be the faith of people of Mormugao and Vasco after the doubling of coal handling,” Sonurlekar said.
Goencho Ekvott Founder Member Orville Dourado Rodrigues said the grant of EC has signed the death warrant of not only the port town of Vasco, Mormugao, Dabolim and Cortalim but also those areas opposite the bay at Caranzalim, Dona Paula and beyond which will definitely be affected by the coal pollution.
“This, despite the Public Hearing held in 2017 which stretched for 8 days where speaker after speaker voiced their opinion and opposition to this project. Goa’s lungs are being systematically punctured and only divine intervention can save this most beautiful place on earth from doomsday.”
Architect Royla Fernandes of Benaulim said the concerns of Goans have been disregarded.
“The Port Town having witnessed the highest number of deaths during Covid in 2020, is destined to further disasters in near future, and towing along with it the rest of the State.”
“The strategic plan of converting the Mormugao Port Trust to Mormugao Port Authority prior to according this clearance and the forceful construction for double tracking through our villages asserts that the capitalists rule the State.”
Goa Against Coal leader Jayesh Shetgaonkar said the EC is “like a treaty signed by the Centre government to kill Goa and Goans in a slow poisonous death.”
“Despite opposition of coal business activity in the State by NGOs, political parties and general public during a public hearing in 2017, there was no outcome of it. The coal business is imposed on Goans. The State government should be held responsible for this coal mess in Goa which neither gives good health nor business to locals.”
Extract of Manohar Parrikar’s Letter to Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Environment Minister dated 14th August 2017
The proposed increase in coal handling at berths 5A and 6A has been opposed by the public at a public hearing. The Air Quality Monitoring reports of Goa State Pollution Board indicate that particulate matter is exceeding the prescribed limits. It is prudent not to consider request of expansion of coal handling until the particulate matter in Vasco city is well within stipulated standards.
Extract of Manohar Parrikar’s to Dr Harsh Vardhan dated 17th January 2018 after EAC recommendations
My government has taken a consistent and clear stand that no coal expansion to be allowed and even for the existing 5.5 MTPA capacity steps be taken to ensure pollution remains within permissible limits. Kindly consider all the points raised in this letter and urgently revise the EAC recommendations for according the environmental clearance.
What Nilesh Cabral said in January 2021
The CZMP will limit the amount of coal handling and transportation through the State to 12 MTPA which will help the State keep a check on the amount of coal brought into the State and unloaded at the Mormugao Port.