As Goa govt pushes eco-insensitive projects, state risks losing 15% land

An environmentalist in Goa has expressed apprehension that the state risks losing 15 per cent land as the government is “pushing” eco-insensitive projects.

Talking to IANS, noted environmentalist Abhijit Prabhudesai claimed that Goa’s environment is facing a threat and there is a need to combat it.

Extinction of shellfish from coastal area of Marcaim in south Goa, where around 400 villagers were dependent on this business, is warning of pollutants in rivers.

Though Goa is a tiny state, a number of VIPs prefer Goa as a second home and many invest in real estate here. This has widened the scope for construction, which is killing the greenery on the hills. Increasing urbanisation, industries and releasing the polluted water, sewage in the nullahs into the rivers have polluted the water bodies.

He said: “Plateaus are ecologically sensitive areas of Western Ghats. It is a major source of water. If development takes place there, then we will destroy our own source of water. We need to protect them,” he said.

The Western Ghats of Goa broadly consists of the Wildlife Sanctuaries of Mhadei, Netravali and Cotigao and a Bhagwan Mahavir National Park at Mollem.

According to Prabhudesai, Western Ghat’s ‘Ecological Sensitive Area’ notification says that Western Ghats should be protected as it has unique habitats.

“Plateaus are destroyed due to industrial estates. There we get bio-diversity which is not even found in forests. Sixty per cent of Goa land is covered by forest, and the government is protecting only half of it. Rest unidentified is decimated because there is no protection,” he said.

He also said that low-lying areas used for construction projects are a major disaster. “You have to see ‘State Action Plan’ for climate change. It says that 15 per cent of land of Goa will be lost due to flooding and other reasons,” he said.

Speaking about the pollution in rivers, he said that industrial waste and sewage water from urban areas are polluting rivers.

“Shipping is another threat to rivers. Under the Sagarmala project, they want to transport 86 million tonne coal per year. If this happens, fishing will be stopped, no fish will remain in the rivers,” he said.

“Shellfish are decimating from the coast of Goa. Around 400 families in Marcaim were dependent on this business of catching shellfish and selling it. But now there is no shellfish due to pollutants released in the river,” he said.

He said that the Sagarmala project will destroy our rivers. There will be no control on transport of coal and Goa will lose everything.

“Real estate speculation projects coming everywhere, it is only for investment. It is urbanising our villages. Big tourism projects along coasts are also big problems along the coast.

“After coastal zone management plan (CZMP) is finalised, five star projects will come up in low-lying areas. This will cause flooding everywhere with the climate crisis,” he said.

He said that even Mangroves are under attack. “Mangroves are critical. Tidal energy is absorbed by it. It is protecting our agriculture areas. Attack on Mangroves is on for infrastructure projects. Illegal filling is taking place. This should be stopped,” he said.

“Due to climate change and ‘attack’ on the environment, migratory birds are also less seen,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao said that the Government is not concerned about protecting Environment, Forest, Wildlife & Natural Resources. This is clearly evident from its repeated acts such as pushing for ‘Three Linear Project’ and allowing diversion of Mhadei Water by Karnataka.

The three linear projects- double tracking of rail line from Karnataka’s Hospet to Vasco in Goa, laying down a 400 kv power transmission line and widening of highway between Karnataka and Goa, were opposed by people as they were passing through Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park.

“BJP Government is compromising the interest of Goa to satisfy its crony capitalist and this too is proved with the permissions granted for Coal Transportation,” Alemao said.

“If anyone stands to raise the voice against the decisions that mar our State, their voices are suppressed by this Government. With one hand they destroy the Environment and with the other hand, they kill freedom of speech,” he said.

He said that there is a need to protect our wildlife, coastal areas, sources of water and everything related to the environment and nature.

The National Fish workers Forum (NFF) General Secretary Olencio Simoes said: “Sand dunes should be protected, failing which the coastline will vanish.”

He said that the Sagarmala project will “destroy” the environment and rivers of Goa.

“Goa has a beautiful coastline only because of sand dunes. No other state has such sand dunes. Our livelihood and tourism is dependent on the coastal line. But the government is trying to destroy everything,” Simoes said.

He said that the Goans have been demanding that the port limits be deleted from the Coastal Zone Management Plan because there is no provision in the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 for showing the same.

National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) with the movement of ‘Machhimar Sangharsh Yatra’ have started to meet fishermen from coastal states of India. He said that the movement is still going on and they are meeting people from different states.

Environmentalists of Goa have also opposed the double laning of railways as it will destroy the wildlife areas.

Activist Ramkrishna Jalmi said that due to rampant construction in hilly areas, Goa has lost several sources of water and thus the farming activities are affected.

“Politicians and landlords are responsible for the constructions coming up on hilly areas. Such acts of destroying hills for the purpose of construction should be stopped,” Jalmi said.

He said that if they start any movement to save the environment, people in power try to “suppress” their voice.

Jalmi said that if pollution in rivers is not stopped, then Goa will definitely face fish famine.

20230114-141804

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