Amid protests, Goa may cap coal imports into the state

Amid protests, Goa may cap coal imports into the state
Protests in Goa accuse the BJP-led coalition government of turning the state into a coal hubBCCL
The Goa government will formulate a capping mechanism vis-a-vis the import of coal into the state, Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral said on Tuesday, days after thousands of protesters blocked the South Western Railway tracks accusing the BJP-led coalition government of turning the state into a coal hub.

Addressing a press conference at Margao in South Goa, Cabral accused the principal opposition Congress of double-speak, saying the state had imported coal when the Congress was in power for several terms.

"There is an apprehension in the minds of the people of Goa and expats across the world, that more coal will be imported into Goa. Goa will not be a coal hub at all. This is what I want to convey on behalf of the BJP-led government," Cabral told the press conference.

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"At present, nearly 10 to 12 million tons of coal is imported annually. This will not increase and the government will make sure the quantum of coal import does not increase," Cabral said.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will provide documentary proof to the people of Goa to underline the government's intent of limiting coal imports, Cabral added.

Last week civil society protesters as well as opposition party workers had blocked the South Western Railway track for several hours protesting against three Central government projects in protected forest areas of the Western Ghats, accusing the state government of facilitating a coal corridor through the state.

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Nearly 50,000 trees in the Western Ghats region of Goa are slotted for felling for the multiple Central government projects, which include expansion of railway lines and highways and drawing a new power transmission line, spread across protected forests in and around Goa's Mollem village.

The projects were cleared by the National Board for Wildlife in April this year.

Opposition, civil society groups and tourism bodies have expressed apprehension that the projects were pushed at an "express pace" to facilitate movement of coal imported through the Mormugao Port Trust facility in Goa to steel mills in Karnataka's Bellary district and nearby areas.

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Cabral said since 1947 coal had been imported in Goa, when the first consignment of 1.13 lakh tons of the fossil fuel was imported into the state, which was formerly a Portuguese colony.

Between 10 and 12 million tons of coal are presently being handled at the state's only major port, the Mormugao Port Trust, through berths handled by the Adani and JSW Group, the Environment Minister added.

"Coal was also imported when the Congress was in power, so what are they talking about pollution now? The Pramod Sawant-led government has not given any additional permission for import of coal through Goa," Cabral said.

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