Several Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) volunteers protesting against an upcoming ‘coal corridor’ in Goa were detained by the state police on Wednesday, after they tried to handover a memorandum and a packet of coal to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant at his official residence in Panaji.
Speaking to the media, AAP Goa convenor Rahul Mahambre said the protest by his party was to highlight Goa being used as a corridor for coal transportation to steel mills in Karnataka. There are also two Central government proposals to widen roads and double-track railway lines through the protected forests at the Mollem wildlife sanctuary in Goa.
“We had come to meet Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to give him a packet of coal and a memorandum. But he was scared to meet us, instead the Goa police picked us up and detained us,” Mahambre said.
Nearly 50,000 trees in the Western Ghats region of Goa are slotted for felling for multiple Central government projects which include expansion of railway lines and highways, and drawing of new high tension power lines across the two Goa wildlife reserves, Mollem wildlife sanctuary and Bhagwan Mahaveer sanctuary, which are the largest protected forests in the state. The projects were cleared by the National Board for Wildlife in April this year.
The Opposition parties, civil society groups and tourism bodies have expressed apprehension that the projects were pushed at an “express pace” to facilitate movement of coal imported through the Mormugao Port Trust in Goa to steel mills in Karnataka’s Bellary district and nearby areas.
Coal pollution especially in the vicinity of the major port has been debated several times in the legislative assembly.
The Goa government has however, maintained that the widening of roads and double-tracking of the railways was essential to decongest road and rail traffic in the area. About the construction of new power lines to Goa from Karnataka, Power Minister Nilesh Cabral said the move was to increase the state’s power intake for the projected rise in power consumption.