Panaji, Nov 6 : NGOs and environmentalists have always raked up green issues ahead of state elections, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Friday. Sawant also assured that the state’s only major port, operated by the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), would not increase coal handling capacities in the future.
When asked to comment about the series of long drawn opposition against three central government projects, which protesters claim will reduce Goa to a coal hub, Sawant said: “These issues are raised ahead of elections by NGOs and environmentalists. Those who speak about environment, should also talk about the development of Goa and how to take the state ahead”.
The BJP-led coalition government is facing stiff criticism from civil society groups, as well as opposition parties, over the proposed felling of nearly 50,000 trees for the projects, which includes expansion of railway lines and highways and drawing of a new high tension power, spread across protected forests in and around Mollem village. The projects, which the opposition has alleged are to facilitate movement of coal from the Goa port to steel manufacturing units in Karnataka’s Bellary district, have already been cleared by the National Wildlife Board for Wildlife in April this year.
Sawant, however, said that handling of coal was not a new phenomenon in Goa. He also said that he would not allow the Port Trust to increase its coal handling capacity in the coming years.
“Coal handling has not started since I was CM. It started in 1947… When the mining industry was running full fledged, MPT was not handling much coal, just around three to four million (tonnes),” Sawant said.
“Because mining shut down, to improve port’s viability, they (MPT) may have increased coal (handling) a bit. MPT currently handles 14 to 15 million tonnes of coal, we will not allow any more handling of polluting coal. Strict environment norms will be followed,” Sawant said.