Centre Grants Clearance for Controversial Goa Railway Project to Cut Through Western Ghats

While the environmental activists and local residents have been opposing the diversion of 140 hectares of forest land for the South Western Railway’s double-tracking project, the Centre has granted clearance for this Goa railway project to cut through the Western Ghats. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has given the green light to the railway plan to cut through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park, in South Goa. Leading to major deforestation, the state is to lose 50,000 trees for this project.

The ministry has granted in-principle approval in a letter to the Goa Principal Secretary of Forests, which means a stage 1 clearance for a diversion of 120.87 hectares of forest land for double tracks between Castlerock railway station in North Karnataka to Kulem railway station in South Goa. Two other approvals for the diversion of 1.90 hectares of private forest and 15.6 hectares of forest land for double tracks between Kulem and Margaon railway stations in South Goa were also issued.

Three linear projects – the double-tracking project of railways, the expansion of a national highway into a four-lane, and the Goa-Yanmar transmission power project – have been diligently protested by environmentalists as they could have a catastrophic effect on the forests in the Western Ghats. Moreover, these projects offer minimum economic benefits to local people and were aimed to accelerate the transportation of coal from the Mormugao Port Trust to Karnataka.

Centre Approves for Goa Railway Project to Cut Through Western Ghats

The Centre has approved clearance for the Goa railway project to cut through the Western Ghats | Image: Ravikanth G

Even though there has been a huge uproar to protect Mollem last year, the government has turned a blind eye to the appeals of its people. The forests’ interest has been neglected in a race to development. The director of Goa Foundation, which has been at the frontline of the ‘Save Mollem’ campaign, Claude Alvares, said that people will keep fighting against the environmental assault and will keep protesting.

Unfortunately, these projects have been given clearance despite the ecological and socio-economic destruction they bring upon the Western Ghats and its inhabitants.

The MoEFCC has stated in the clearances that at least 1,000 trees per hectare will be planted as compensatory afforestation on the identified degraded forest land within three years of final approval for the project. However, uprooting trees and destroying species habitats cannot be mended by planting trees somewhere else; and what is to guarantee the survival of reforested trees?

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that the linear projects were being fulfilled for the future of Goa. He blamed the protests on political agendas, implying that ignorant people oppose these projects for the sake of opposing and are being manipulated by someone else.

According to activists and environmentalists, the goa railway project which is set to cut through the Western Ghats will destroy the crucial tiger habitat in the region. The region is home to 5,000 flowering plant species, 139 mammal species, 508 avian species, 179 amphibian species, and 325 globally threatened species of wildlife.

Whether the authorities will pay any heed to the pleas of protesters who are fighting on the behalf of the wildlife, or the region will see immense destruction in the region – the next step of the Indian government will be an interesting affair, as it will seal the fate the ecosystems in the Western Ghats.

Via: Indian Express

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