Accord priority to jobs, healthcare not coal transportation, say Salcete locals

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Locals from Colva hold up banners to protest against coal issue during a rally by ‘Goyant Kollso Naka’ activists on Thursday.

Margao: Hundreds of locals from Salcete’s coastal villages joined a rally that was taken out across the taluka coastline to raise awareness on adverse impact of several projects that are set to come up in the state for boosting coal transportation.

The awareness movement, in the form of rallies, that had started on October 2, under the ‘Goyant Kollso Naka’ banner, has covered around 54 villages and on Thursday, a similar rally was taken out in Salcete’s coastal villages. 

Locals participated in the rally with banners, moving from village to village in their vehicles, mainly two wheelers, creating awareness and demanding a stop to projects that are meant to support coal transportation within the state.

The rally began in Benaulim and moved through villages of Colva, Varca, Orlim, Carmona and Cavelossim.

“Today, what we need is jobs and better medical facilities but the government only wants to increase the coal transportation in the state that will benefit big corporates. The coal is going to be detrimental to our future generations who will suffer from cancer and lung diseases. Goa is a small state but the ministers and MLAs are not concerned about the people. We are here today to say that we do not want the coal in our state,” said a Benaulim resident Alben Rebello. 

The Goyant Kollso Naka movement, headed by convener Antonio D’Silva and co-conveners Abhijit Prabhudesai and Xavier Fernandes, has in the past put forth a set of demands. These include a stop to coal transportation through MPT, removing the six rivers from the schedule of National Waterways Act 2016, cancelling all clearances granted and stopping all ongoing activities related to SWR track, NH4-A, NH17-B and 400 kv transmission line, dropping land acquisition proceedings for SWR project, dropping all MPT expansion plans and stopping capital dredging project and construction of jetties in Goa’s rivers as well as to recognise the rights of the indigenous communities over the rivers and coasts and exclude the lands and waters of Goa fully from the Major Port Authorities Bill 2020. 

The activists have also demanded that all clearances granted by the state government for the MPT expansion projects and three projects through the Western Ghats must be cancelled. The Goa Forward Party has also lent support to the movement while also demanding the stand of MLAs in the state on the issue.

Speaking to media persons on Thursday, Goa Forward Party leader Prashant Naik said that “the track doubling project is only meant to help bring coal into the state. We are also against the way in which the railways started the work on double tracking in Sao Jose de Areal. We want to know the stand of all the MLAs on this issue. If they do not raise any objection, the people of Goa will understand that their support is for the coal in the state. If they don’t respond now, the people of the state will give their response in the next election.”