Panaji: RORO services and ropeway transportation systems could soon reduce the dependency on the handling of coal at Goa’s only major port, the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Sunday.
Sawant said that if the two projects are cleared by a special committee appointed by the Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandviya, coal handling at the major port could reduce by half in the coming years.
The Chief Minister was speaking during an interaction here with schoolchildren, who met Sawant and urged him to bar coal handling in Goa in the wake of pollution concerns and also requested him to scrap three central government projects over fears of environmental damage.
“This month, our (Union) Shipping Minister is expected to come to Goa. He is setting up a committee to look for alternatives (to coal) like starting a RORO (roll-on, roll-off) ferry service and ropeways… Once these alternatives are cleared, coal handling will decrease,” Sawant told a group of around two dozen children, who met him with placards demanding shutting down of coal handling at the MPT facility.
Sawant had met Mandviya during his visit to the national capital to brief the Union MoS about the opposition to the coal handling project at the Goa port facility.
“We want Goa to be a shipping destination. I assure you that coal import and handling will drop down by 50 per cent in the coming years,” Sawant said.
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 of a new high-tension power line, spread across protected forests in and around Mollem village.
The projects have already been cleared by the National Wildlife Board in April this year.
The opposition, as well as civil society groups and tourism stakeholders bodies, have expressed apprehension that the projects were being pushed at an “express pace” to facilitate the movement of coal imported through the Mormugao Port Trust facility in Goa to steel mills in Karnataka’s Bellary district and nearby areas.
Sawant also said that it was impossible to shut down coal imports and handling at the major port immediately because the activity is linked to 2,000 jobs in the state, but assured the children that coal handling would reduce and if possible even shut down, once the port starts opening up for other goods handling, including iron ore.
Iron ore extraction has been banned by the apex court in 2018 after it scrapped irregular lease renewals done by the Goa government in the preceding years.
“We will start tourism activity at the port. Once mining starts, we won’t need to import coal,” Sawant said.