The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) has granted clearances for the diversion of 140 hectares of forest land in biodiversity hotspot zone for the South Western Railway’s double-tracking project; draws several criticisms from the environmentalist.
Goa Principal Secretary (Forests), the MoEF approved an in-principle sanction or a stage-1 clearance for diversion of 120.87 hectares of forest land for double-tracking between Castlerock railway stations in north Karnataka to Kulem railway station in South Goa. There are also two other clearances have been issued for the diversion of 1.90 hectares of private forest and 15.6 hectares of forest land for double-tracking between Kulem and Margaon railway stations in South Goa.
This development has already triggered the environment activists and also the locals who are protesting against the project as it cut through the biodiversity hotspot zone of BhagwanMahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park in South Goa. The protests had already started taking place from the last year, in order to saveMollem and biodiversity. The Save Mollem’ movement of Goa Foundation had already started gaining momentum from last year for diversification of forest land but government turned deaf ears to the protests.
They have also been opposing the three other projects i.e., the double-tracking project, the four-laning of a national highway and the Goa-Yanmar transmission power project.
On the other hand, the MoEF has stated that “at least 1,000 trees per hectare have to be planted as compensatory afforestation over identified degraded forest land within three years of final approval for the project in order to address the worries of people, as well as to prevent the spillage of ore, coal etc.” The ministry has also stated that all the rakes of freight trains should have spill proof/sealed cover which is presently absent.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that not to politicise the protest and issue as many people don’t even know why the protest is going on.