COAL BIRYANI: The dum biryani for which Anantashram is famous will now come with a liberal coating of coal dust
The increase in the coal handling capacity at MPT to 50 million tonnes and its transport by road and rail through not just Vasco, but some of the greenest heritage villages in South Goa, will kill the tourism industry and blacken the face of Salcete in particular
By Rajan Narayan
THE exhaustive investigation by the Indian Express on the conspiracy to convert the MPT into a mega exclusive coal handling port confirms that the BJP wants to kill South Goa. This is because the diabolical plan to increase the coal handling capacity at the MPT from the present 10 million tonnes to 50 million tonnes will bury South Goa under devil’s dust, as coal dust is called. It will also kill the tourism industry in South Goa which already faces the threat of the Dabolim Airport closing down following the commissioning of the Mopa Airport.
At least in the case of iron ore the bulk of it was exported, earning foreign exchange for the country, revenue for the state, and jobs for Goans. In the case of the import of coal the only beneficiary are big industrialists like Adani, Jindal and Agarwal of Vedanta and the state of Karnataka. The coal imported through MPT which will see a huge increase in the next three years is meant for the steel and thermal power generation plans not in Goa but in neighbouring Karnataka.
Everyone in Vasco was aware of the impact of coal dust pollution. Everyone was vaguely aware that coal was transported in railway wagons from the MPT to Karnataka. Everyone in Vasco has experienced the effect of coal being transported throughout the night through Vasco city. But never before have the details of the horror story been spelt out till the five-part Indian Express investigation. It revealed the plight of Vasco — where devout Catholics go for early morning mass in St Andrews Church in the middle of Vasco city and have to wipe the coal from the benches before sitting down. Where having a dum biryani in Vasco’s favourite restaurant Anand Ashram means you are are also eating coal dust. Where everyone knows that when they buy vegetables from the Vasco market they get free coal dust as a bonus. Where the children of both the rich and the poor suffer from asthma and severe respiratory diseases as they breath in fine coal dust 365 days a year, year after year.
NOT JUST GOANS
IT IS not only the Goan residents of Vasco who are affected by the transport of coal by road and rail through Vasco and South Goa. The coal dust also affects the lungs of the large number of navy personnel including pilots whose lungs are very precious. These are the pilots who fly advanced planes on aircraft carriers.
These are the men and women of the largest naval aviation base in the country. Whether it is
INS Hansa or the other Naval establishments located in Vasco, all the jawans run the risk of their lungs being choked.
Similar is the fate of those who guard the coast line of the country. We are referring to all those posted in the coast guard division in Goa. Their job is to ensure that no terrorists can infiltrate Goa as they did in Bombay to carry out the bomb blasts against the Taj and the Oberoi, and also to rescue the foreign ships and Goans fisherman in distress.
Coal dust also affects the productivity of employees of the Goa Shipyard which is the largest builder and supplier of war ships to the Navy and the coast guard. I am shocked that former raksha mantri Manohar Parrikar has permitted the damage to the lungs of out brave jawans for the benefit of greedy industrialists.
CHIEF Minster Parrikar has admitted the mining industry is virtually dead in Goa. Its contribution to gross domestic product is less than 10% as against almost 80% at the peak of the ore China boom. Its contribution to the income of the state has reduced to a trickle. Most of the Goans who invested in trucks for transporting ore, and barges and mining machinery which they would hire out, are dependent on doles from the government for survival. Which leaves the tourism industry as the biggest contributor to the revenue of the state departments. Which includes all the revenue from the sale of liquor which is bought in huge quantities by domestic tourists at least. Tourism is also the largest source of jobs in Goa.
What was not realised before the publication of the Indian Express investigation was that tourism would also be a major causality of the increase in the import of coal through the MPT. The wagons of coal which leave Vasco every two hours now, and probably will leave every 10 minutes when the coal import shoot up to 50 million tonnes, pass through the whole of South Goa before they proceed towards their final destination in Karnataka.
The coal dust affects not only Vasco city but Velsao and Cansaulim which has two five star hotels, including the Park Hyatt and many three and four star hotels. The railway line virtually splits Cansaulim into two with one of the victims of the coal dust pollution being the family and the ancestral house of the former chief minister, the late Dr Proto Barbosa. The trains pass within 200 mtrs of the grocery shop and the house of Goa’s most famous writer Damodar Mauzo in Majorda. Which is also the village which has the oldest 5-star hotel in South Goa — the Majorda beach resort.
The devil’s dust trains and trucks will also damage the village of Chandor which has priceless heritage homes like the Menezes Braganza house which is a major tourist attraction. This is the original home of the Goan freedom fighter whose name has been given to the Menezes Braganza hall in Panjim.
The trucks and the wagons carrying coal dust also pass through Loutolim, the village of the
late Mario Miranda, the legendry cartoonist. It will pass the spice farm which attracts tourist for its exotic plants and spices and which is now in the path of the coal trucks. It will affect the village of Guirdolim which hosts the popular Three Kings feast. It will affect Sao Jose De Areal where two wheeler riders are blinded by the coal dust from the trucks. It will affect Shelvona and Curtorim and also Seraulim and Cansaulim which are part of Mormugoa Taluka. The impact of the devils dust will go right up to the last village in Goa — Kole — just before the Dudhsagar waterfalls.
WHEN the Indian Express story on Goa being drowned in coal is picked up by the international media, as it is bound to be, this being the beginning of the charter tourism season, they will drop Goa from their travel plans. In the recent years more and more tourists, sick of the crowds in the popular beaches in North Goa, have been shifting to South Goa. Which is why there are more 5-star and 7-star hotels in South Goa than in North Goa.
When the BRICS summit was held in Goa it was in South Goa and not North Goa as in the case of CHOGM in 1983. The defence expo was held in Betul for the first time when Manohar Parrikar was the defence minister and is expected to be held this year also.
South Goa is also the most popular destination for weddings with Planet Hollywood specially designed to cater to couples in love wanting to tie the knot in romantic Goa against the setting sun or on the beach. Now brides will think twice as they do not want coal dust in their hair or their special bridal wear. Along with star hotels, lodges, dormitories and Goa’s famous shacks will also be victims of the devil’s dust.
The export of ore destroyed the paddy fields of Goa. The extraction of ore and the huge mountains of mining rejects led to the pollution of the rivers and springs of Goa particularly during the monsoons. The forests of Goa were depleted by mining as many mining leases were within forest areas. A number of Goans including children have been victims of accidents due to speeding trucks carrying iron ore.
But at least in the case of iron ore some excuse could be offered that mining was the backbone of Goa in terms of employment and revenue until tourism was discovered and grew in a big way in the ‘80s after CHOGM. Before the charters arrived tourism was a very limited industry in Goa. The mining industry was, at least until the ‘80s, the largest provider of jobs in Goa, directly or indirectly. The importance of mining to the livelihoods of Goans was dramatised when mining was suspended. Not only were truck owners, truck drivers and barge owners out of jobs, many other businesses, like small restaurants, tea shops, garages and even shops of gold smiths closed down because the mining earning tap suddenly dried up.
In the case of coal there is no excuse for Goa promoting the import of greater and greater quantities of coal. The irony is that the government at the Centre and the Supreme Court are so concerned about pollution that they are talking about phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles by 2025. Indeed for some time the sale of diesel vehicles was totally banned in the national capital region. Buses in Delhi and in Mumbai and even taxis in the commercial capital have been shifted to CNG. Everyone recognises that thermal power is the most polluting of the various sources of electricity, which includes hydral power, thermal power and nuclear power.
Although nuclear power has the least side-affects there is always the risk that if there is a
leakage of uranium it can be disastrous. The raw material for atom bombs is the same as that in nuclear plants. Which is why the world is switching increasingly to solar power and to wind power. Coal is being dumped on poor countries like India where awareness of the pollution level is low. But this is Goa which has the highest level of literacy in the country.
We have to get together to fight the black plague. It is a fact of history that the Portuguese vacated Old Goa which houses the bishops church and the relics of St Francis Xavier because of the outbreak of plague — a disease caused and spread by rats. Plague epidemics have led to millions of deaths worldwide. But devil’s dust is infinitely worse than plague or rabies. Because it affects the lungs. Because if your lungs are coated with fine black coal dust you cannot breath. Because you do not want to have coal on your paddy fields. You do not want to have coal on your coconut trees. You do not want to have coal on your bridal dress when you come to get married in Goa. You do not want our navel pilot’s to have their lungs choked as we need them to defend the country. We have only tourism left to provide jobs for the young men and women in the state. Let us not allow Nitin Gadkari, the Minister for Roads and Ports, to kill tourism in Goa to promote tourism in neighbouring Maharashtra for whose benefit the Mopa airport is already getting ready.