Facing protests over fears of Goa becoming a ‘coal hub’ through ongoing central projects related to laying of double rail tracks and widening of roads, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant met several Union Ministers to discuss related issues over the last two days.
Sawant is under pressure from nearly all opposition parties and civil society groups over the two projects, which critics say would be used to facilitate increased transportation of coal through Goa to Karnataka’s steel industry at the cost of axing nearly 50,000 trees in protected forests in and around Mollem village in South Goa.
A 400KVA power project coming up near Mollem has also faced opposition.
Among the Union Ministers whom Sawant met during his two-day visit to Delhi were Union Minister of State for Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Railway Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Mansukh Mandaviya, among others.
“Met Mandaviya in New Delhi today. Conveyed sentiments of people of Goa regarding coal handling. He has assured to look into the matter,” Sawant said in a statement.
After meeting Gadkari on Tuesday, Sawant said that he had discussed various issues related to pending and proposed National Highway projects in the state and also “conveyed the apprehensions of people regarding the highway expansion on Anmod Ghat (Goa-Karnataka border)”.
Sawant’s visit to Delhi comes days after his assurance that he would obtain a written communication from authorities concerned, that the existing coal imports in Goa, which is to the tune of 14-15 million tonnes, would not be increased in future on completion of the projects.
Coal dust pollution in the port town of Vasco and nearby areas has been an issue of major concern in the state.