Leader of opposition Digmabar Kamat has written to the Central Empowered Committee, raising concerns over forest department’s clearances in Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park for railway double tracking, widening of National Highway 4A and laying of power transmission line.
In a letter, Kamat has said that he had objected to the forest department’s clearances given to the infrastructure projects in Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park as well as clearances for the expansion of the NH4A highway and the laying of the 400kv transmission line, during the COVID 19 pandemic.
“It appears that the stringent processes set in place to safeguard our protected areas have been disregarded in the case of Mollem, and I am aware that the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court has paid close attention to such violations in the past. I would request you to kindly hear out all the stakeholders, students, lawyers, project-affected citizens and scientists who are seeking relief with regards to their land, livelihoods, identity and as importantly protecting Goa’s biodiversity. There is no clear rationale for these projects within the forest area, leave alone studying impacts of three projects altogether on one area,” he has said in the letter to the Member Secretary and members of the CEC as well as the Environment Minister.
He has also pointed that endangered species and pristine parts of the sanctuary and national park were at risk of being destroyed.
“The proposal involves not just widening of certain sections but creating a new highway on viaducts in pristine and hitherto untouched parts of the wildlife sanctuary and national park. There are numerous endangered species such as the tiger (our national animal), Dhole, Mouse Deer, Indian Pangolin and Gaur (Goa’s state animal) which will be threatened apart from the many endemic species found only in the Western Ghats. The National Board for Wildlife is supposed to be protecting biodiversity – not giving a freehand to disturbing and destroying our beautiful state,” he has stated.
Urging the CEC to protect Goa’s future, he has also mentioned that “if viewed together one will be able to see that these three projects fragment Goa’s largest protected area and areas outside, irreversibly. These projects not only affect the trees and the thousands of animals that live in refuge here but they also have direct effects on our lives. A loss in forest cover will further increase the frequency of irregular rainfall, flooding and drought events (as seen in the monsoon of 2019 that led to crop loss) affecting the quality of life of all citizens. With rivers originating in Mollem, these projects threaten Goa’s water supply. Further, COVID-19, a zoonotic disease, highlights the importance of keeping our forests intact, any form of degradation of these forests will have an insurmountable impact on public health and can increase the transmission of diseases.”