By Rajan Narayan
IF tourism and night life have destroyed north Goa, the still peaceful virgin south Goa is threatened by double-tracking of the South West Railway. Till recently this railway which passes through the mining belt in Hospet from Karnataka was a single track. This meant that goods traffic was delayed. However, at the instance of the Adani and Jindal groups the Central government speeded up the double-tracking of the railway from Goa to Bangalore.
The double-tracking is not meant for the benefit of Goans. On the contrary, it will destroy south Goa’s countryside and verdant farming lands and also tourism which has moved to south Goa from north Goa with peace-loving tourists preferring south Goan beaches.
The double-tracking is being done for the movement of huge quantities of ore and now coal. There has been a huge increase in the coal being imported through the Mormogoa Port Trust in port city of Vasco da Gama. This follows the granting of concessions for coal mining to the Adani Group in Australia from where it is being transported to Goa’s one and only port, although Karnataka has many ports of its own. It seems it is okay to destroy Goa but not Karnataka.
The coal cargo arrives in large ships which are packed with black coal to the MPT which stockpiles this cargo so that it is transported on trucks through roadways as also railways to the Jindal steel and Adani power plant in Karnataka. The iron ore and coal pollution which was under control till recently will now increase several fold with the double-tracking. If the double-tracking continues it is a surety that south Goa’s pristine countryside which is much sought after by travellers and tourists will be breathing in fine coal dust.
Even more shocking is that the second track now being laid and which is being resisted by the local people strongly is passing through villages like Cavellossim and Raia. It passes through where the grand ancestral home of former chief minister of Goa, Dr Proto Barbosa, is located in Cavellossim. The double- tracking will destroy the heritage village of Loutalim and Verna. Local residents like Diana and Edwin Pinto have been fighting to stop this double-tracking of the railway line. They believe that not only south Goa but parts of north Goa will be affected by the coal dust in the air.
In fact, already Verna resident and BJP MLA Alina Saldanha from Cortalim constituency who has a flat in Taleigao expressed her horror when she visited it recently only to find a thin layer of black coal dust coating her floor. She is fighting the double-tracking by raising the conscience of all of south Goa which stands to suffer with the double-tracking and consequent coal pollution.
There are very few small steel plants in Goa which work on thermal energy. Goa does not need even a fraction of the coal being brought in by the Adani Group from Australia. But the current government of Goa is deaf, dumb and blind to any kind of pollution which will endanger the health of Goans. It is only concerned with the royalty it will earn through the transportation of ore and now coal for industrial use in the neighbouring state of Karnataka.
As it is the ore industry which was suspended for almost a decade is all set to revive if it hasn’t already covertly and overtly. The ore mining areas have been auctioned. The Jindals and Vedanta have quoted very high prices. Goan miners have not been able to match the prices, so much so all the traditional iron ore iron much so all the traditional ore mining barons are out in the cold. The Dempo Group sold its stakes in mining to Vedana at the right time. The House of Salgaocar has split with Shivanand Salgaocar having taken over the iron mines. Mining baron Auduth Timblo has quit mining.
All the big names in Goa don’t find it profitable to manage mines anymore. In any case the Goan ore has been of low quality with iron content less than 55%. Reportedly, Goan ore is powdery and mostly exported to Japan and Korea.
Now the Jindals have taken over the iron ore mines. They will start transporting the ore from Goa to their steel plants in Karnataka. It will add to the pollution caused by the transportation of coal. We need a popular movement like the Goa Bachao Abhiyan to stop the double-tracking of the South Eastern Railway.