Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Goa's beauty is going

 Projects  in Goa and Karnataka approved by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is accused of approving the projects in April last year in “unseemly haste”, allegedly without consulting the village locals or observing due process will cut through Mollem National Park,  a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, and the adjoining Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, include the expansion of a national highway from the capital Panjim to Belgaum in neighbouring Karnataka, the doubling of a railway track that will run through Goa’s Mollem forest and Karnataka’s Kali tiger reserve, and building a power transmission line through the forest.

Environmentalists have repeatedly warned of an unfolding catastrophe facing the fragile forest and its unique biodiversity if the projects are implemented. The projects also threaten to destroy livelihoods and heritage homes – some of which were built nearly 200 years ago and are a testimony to the culture and colonial history of Goa.

The “Magical Mollem”, also called Goa’s green heart, encompasses 240sq km (149sq miles) of India’s Western Ghats. It is a 150 million-year-old reserve with thousands of wildlife species. From pangolins and wild frogs to 120 species of butterflies and mammals, some ecologists say its biodiversity is as important as Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The residents of Goa say the BJP is abetting the use of fossil fuels by pandering to the corporations – actions that go against the UN’s climate report which emphasises that production of coal, oil and gas must fall by 6 percent a year until 2030 to avoid  a “severe climate disruption”.

Most anger is directed towards the Adani Group – the largest coal producer in the region – whose chairman and founder, Gautam Adani, is close to the governing BJP.

“The governments (federal and state) is widely seen as being owned by the Adani corporate empire,” says Claude Alvares, director of Goa Foundation, one of the state’s oldest environmental action groups.

Residents say the Adani Group will transport coal from Australia to the steel plants in Karnataka and Maharashtra states through Goa’s Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), built in the 19th century.

Other corporations set to benefit are Jindal and Vedanta. In 2018, the MPT granted Adani and Jindal 50-percent waivers on the port charges. The Vedanta Group’s Sesa Sterlite is involved in the power transmission line project.

Max D’souza, member of Villagers Action Committee Against Double Tracking (VACAD), said the corporations will use their designated coal berths at MPT to enhance coal transport. “Goans will see no benefit from these projects, except destruction,” he said. 

“They [the corporations] do not influence government decisions, they make the decisions and the government implements them,” said Alvares.

 The central government last month granted permits for the clearing of 140 hectares (345 acres) of forest land for the South Western Railway (SWR) project.

Protests as India’s Goa plans infra projects in protected forest | Climate Change News | Al Jazeera

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