Panaji: Three proposed central government projects, including the expansion of a national highway and doubling of South Western railway tracks, will cause ecological devastation in Goa, as well as deeply impact the coastal state’s tourism industry, Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat has said in a letter to the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court on Friday.
In his letter, Kamat also said that the projects would degrade the habitats of several endangered wildlife species, which are found in the two wildlife reserves — where the proposed projects are partly envisioned — including that of the national animal, the Royal Bengal tiger.
“As a member of the Goa Legislative Assembly and Leader of Opposition, I believe in standing up for the interests of Goa and I am not at all in favour of these dubious forest clearances given for these three linear environmentally destructive, infrastructure projects in Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem national park,” Kamat said. Both the wildlife reserves are located in South Goa and are contiguous with forested areas in Karnataka.
“If Goa is envisioned to be a prime tourism destination and if the Centre and state wish to make revenue from it, its protected areas and the heritage villages should be undisturbed. Goa’s vibrant villages cannot be greyed by plans for a coal hub. Goa’s economy depends on these forests during the off-season,” Kamat also said in his letter addressed to the Committee.
“There are numerous endangered species such as Tiger (our national animal), dhole, mouse deer, Indian pangolin and Gaur (Goa’s state animal) will be threatened apart from the many endemic species found only in the Western Ghats. The National Board for Wildlife is supposed to be protecting biodiversity — not giving a freehand to disturbing and destroying our beautiful state,” the former Chief Minister also said.
Nearly 50,000 trees located in the Western Ghat region of Goa are slotted for felling for multiple central government projects which include expansion of railway lines and highways and drawing of a new high tension power, spread across the two wildlife reserves, which are two of the biggest protected forests in the state. The projects have already been cleared by the National Wildlife Board for Wildlife in April this year.
Tourism industry stakeholders as well as activists and opposition political parties have opposed the three projections claiming it would not only have adverse environmental impact on the state, but would also affect eco-tourism activities in Goa.
Earlier this month, the Bombay High Court bench in Goa also issued notices to the state and central government agencies, after a petition filed by a local NGO alleged that several green norms had been flouted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and other associated wildlife bodies in granting permissions to the three projects.