Thousands of men, women and children gathered at Chandor Village of south Goa on Sunday, holding midnight protests over the doubling of the railway line to Karnataka. Protestors sat on the same track where the work was to begun for railway expansion.
The protests are against infrastructure projects designed to carry coal that would destroy ecological biodiversity.
The protestors lit candles, beat drums and raised slogans against the state government's move to push through railway expansion through between the areas Margao and Sanvordem.
Demonstrators spent the night on the tracks until dawn to prevent the rail staff from beginning work. Some protesters beat drums and danced in traditional Goan style.
The expansion work is done for the transportation of coal from the Mormugao port to steel plants located in north Karnataka via a protected forest in the Western Ghats, reported The Indian Express.
According to the report, projections of Mormugao Port Trust for the year 2030 states that they want to import nearly 51.6 million tonnes of coal for Adani Group, JSW Group and Vedanta. Most of it will be transported through Goa to other states.
Also, 17 coal-backed power plants and 22 steel plants have already been identified by the Shipping Ministry as 'potential clients'. No permissions have been taken by railways for laying tracks in western Ghats. Protesters said that the doubling of rail tracks is being undertaken solely to transport coal from the state to neighbouring Karnataka.
Political parties including Congress, Goa Forward Party and AAP have joined the protests. The protesters say that the project also paves the way for both the states to take various projects that directly harm the environment, and the expansion of railways involves shedding of trees in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and a national park on the border of the state.
According to the environmental group, Greens, around 50,000 trees within the Western Ghats region will be felled for expansion of railway lines, highways (NH-4A) and also affect the protected forests in and around Mollem village.
These projects have received a go-ahead sign by the National Wildlife Board for Wildlife. Many activists have challenged the Bombay high court and the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which was set up by the Supreme Court (SC) to adjudicate environmental matters.
Responding to the protests, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant is not willing to agree to the protesters' demands.
"The infrastructure is not being created for the transportation of coal alone. Stop these agitations. We have not started importing coal. Coal has been imported for many years. We have not even increased the import of coal. We are carrying out the construction work in a bid to develop industries and give a boost to exports and imports," the media quoted Sawant as saying.
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