In what could be seen as a victory for Goans, who have been opposing coal transportation and development of a coal hub apart from the nationalisation of state’s rivers, Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources and River Development Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday said that if the opposition continues in the state, the projects could be dropped or shifted to Vijaydurg and Karwar.
Addressing a press conference at Benaulim, the Union Minister said the Centre could drop the projects if the people of Goa oppose them including the coal transportation and that the Centre is concerned about the environment and safety of the people of the state. Gadkari said that the only project that does not seem to have any objection in the state is the cruise operation from Mumbai to Goa.
Stating that he came across a couple of trucks transporting coal on his way and he found that they were fully covered with tarpaulin, Gadkari said that the opposition to the transportation of coal could be politically motivated.
Replying to a question about coal pollution in Vasco, he said that the Centre has taken cognisance of media reports and asked the director of Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) to ascertain facts. He also said that authorities have spoken to the Vasco parish priest and others and added that the issue of MPT exceeding its capacity will be looked into. He also said that the Centre has already dropped the project to develop Betul as a satellite port.
On capital dredging, Gadkari said to make transportation of iron ore competitive in the international market, a depth of 18 metres has to be attained so that large vessels can navigate the rivers or else the transportation cost increases making it an unviable operation. The minister said that the Union Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change will be approached to obtain environmental clearance for the capital dredging.
On the nationalisation of state rivers, Gadkari said there is a misconception about the term nationalisation of rivers. He explained that the state government will continue to remain the custodian of the rivers and that the Centre is only funding the riverfront development and beautification and Rs 15,000 crore has been sanctioned. He said the riverfront development includes dredging and illumination. He said the Centre cannot take up the project without the rivers being notified and the same has been mandated by the state government.
The central minister said that the utilisation of the state rivers could further give a boost to tourism in the state, as the hotels could consider transporting tourists through waterways, and the construction of floating jetties at various places will help in reducing traffic congestion and pollution.
Gadkari said that the Centre will conduct a feasibility study on connecting
the Dabolim airport to the upcoming Mopa airport through waterways. He said that the ferry service from Goa to Mumbai will be flagged off in the first week of December and added that the terminal will be developed on the lines of facilities existing at the airport keeping in view the safety and security standards.
The minister said that the Centre has given the Goa government a push to make transition to battery-operated public transportation system. He said while the cost remains a factor, it will start dropping once production commences and added that many companies are coming forward to develop battery-operated buses and cars.
The Union Minister said that his ministry has identified 500 infrastructure projects worth Rs 8 lakh crore under the Sagarmala programme adding that 289 projects to the tune of Rs 2.17 lakh crore are at various stages of implementation. He said that so far Rs 601 crore has been released for 46 projects.