Hundreds of locals from South Goa attended the public meeting of the Goencho Ekvott group in Velsao on Sunday. The Goencho Ekvott group gave a call to Goans to support them in the fight against the railway double-tracking project.
Former Cortalim MLA and Aam Aadmi Party leader Alina Saldhana said that there is absolutely no need to have a new railway track and the Supreme Court of India has also pointed out the same.
If the new railway track is brought to Goa then it will bring sheer destruction. When the people are against the railway double-tracking project then the government must listen to the voices of the people and do what is right.
Vikas Bhagat, one of the speakers at this meeting, said, “The Goencho Ekvott group has been fighting for the cause of the Goan people against the double-tracking project for a long time. There were a few politicians like Sankalp Amonkar and other Congress leaders who were also against coal and double tracking before joining the BJP government. Now we must ask them about their stand on the double-tracking project.”
Bhagat further said, “We will not allow this project in Goa and more people will stand against this project in future.”
Orville Dourado Rodriques, the founding member of Goencho Ekvott, gave a call to Goans to support their group and stand with them in opposition to the double-tracking project.
Olencio Simoes, the general secretary of Goenchea Raponkarancho Ekvott, urged the prime minister of India to drop the Sagarmala projects. He also said that the villagers of Velsao will not allow the double-tracking project in their village. Villagers had gathered for the public meeting to protect the environment and heritage houses of Velsao.
As per the pamphlet which was distributed by the Goencho Ekvott group, it was stated that Goencho Ekvott is opposing this double-tracking project because it will lead to the cutting of trees in protected areas of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park, which will result in ecological damage.
The sanctuaries are part of the Western Ghats, an internationally notified UNESCO biodiversity hotspot.
The destruction of the Dudhsagar Falls will lead to water scarcity in the Khandepar River which supplies water to Tiswadi and Ponda talukas.
Furthermore, the Ragda River in Sattari taluka will also be affected. The water salinity of the other rivers will also be affected. The Supreme Court of India has scrapped the project citing it as causing irreversible damage to the biodiversity and being uneconomical.
An alternate Port of Krishnapatnam on the East Coast of India has been suggested for the import of coal into India.
Giving more details about the impact of coal transportation on Goan villages, Goencho Ekvott stated that thousands of Goans families as well as allied tourism activities will be affected due to double tracking.
High-speed and overloaded rakes will cause irreparable damage to heritage and traditional houses as well as ancient religious structures.
Intense noise pollution will result in a lack of sleep and health issues. The rail tracks will result in the permanent division of the village and access to schools, hospitals and markets.
The 30 metres setback will be implemented once the new track is laid, which means no construction will be allowed within 30 metres of the new railway track.
All six rivers, ie Zuari, Mandovi, Chapora, Sal, Cumbharjua and Mapusa, will not be accessible to local fishers and farmers.
Over 4000 patients from Mormugao taluka are currently suffering from respiratory problems because of coal pollution, stated the pamphlet of Goencho Ekvott.
It further revealed that coal dust is dangerous because it affects pollination, thereby reducing the yield of all types of crops. Coal dust particles when inhaled become lodged in the lungs and are not naturally expelled from the body.
Other related diseases like lung cancer, heart and respiratory diseases like asthma, skin ailments, etc are related to coal dust. Deaths in Goa, especially Vasco, which have been attributed to COVID-19 are probably on account of reduced immunity due to coal dust pollution.
Coal dust remains suspended in the atmosphere for long periods and can blow kilometres away, depending on the wind and other meteorological conditions.
Goencho Ekvott does not want Goan children to die of respiratory diseases.
The wash-off from coal leads to the contamination of water, which will in turn destroy and poison its marine life.
Lastly, coal dust will eventually destroy our paddy fields and coconut groves. Streams and forests, and the biodiversity within, will also be destroyed.