'Destruction Conspiracy' of coal hub & dredging

By Prabhakar Timble
03 May 2017 21:02 IST

The business plans of the Mormugao Port Trust to enter into the foray of coal handling on a gigantic scale necessitating redevelopment of Berths 8, 9 and barge berths at the port for multi-cargo activities which include capital dredging of the channel cannot be viewed as a project restricted to the MPT area with likelihood of adverse repercussions restricted to the Vasco town. The coal handling by MPT on the envisaged scale will undoubtedly punch the entire state of Goa as it would involve further transportation by road, rail and river routes.  Hence, the coal handling operations of the MPT should not be assessed only within the circumference of MPT or Vasco town. It’s an all Goa phenomenon and could well turn out to be a catastrophe of bigger dimensions if left without prior scientific scrutiny. The environmental impact assessment study should therefore incorporate these entire extended operations at the port and beyond.

The tenor and tone of the MPT invoking the “outsiders” doctrine at the recently concluded public hearing needs condemnation from all quarters including the state government. First of all, the contention is not factual. It would be disastrous to adopt such an approach. It is most shocking that an authority such as a port trust which is almost given the status of a local self-governing institution even thinks and later makes public propositions to that effect. Such narrow and parochial defenses are treacherous coming from a public authority which wields economic power and owns quite sizeable land and river resources of Goa. MPT should also realize that the people are dissatisfied with the arrogant and dictatorial manner with which the operations are conducted in the past and regards the entity as ‘untrustworthy’.

Nationalization for Coal!

The nationalization of the six rivers of Goa cannot be delinked from this big business plan of MPT. The apprehensions of the people that the nationalization is back-door strategy of privatization of putting the rivers and river banks of Goa to the exclusive use of private corporate house for coal transportation gets credence. The assurances of the Chief Minister of Goa that the state government will continue to exercise control is an eyewash as it does not have any recognition in the statute. The Nationalization of Inter-State Rivers Act clearly states that the central government shall have exclusive right and control over all inter-State rivers once it is decided to bring the rivers under the enactment. The faith that both the state and central governments being of the BJP, Goa’s wishes would be respected or the confidence that Goa Chief Minister will horn the relationship skills to protect local interests has no legal basis.  The final word on the utilization of the rivers and river banks of Goa will be of the Ministry of Surface Transport and Inland Waterways Authority of India.

 

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) assumes the control of the rivers and river banks which is described as ‘appurtenant land’ to national waterway. The danger lies in the issue that this land is not demarcated. The infrastructure development of the national waterways includes structures such as docks, wharves, jetties, landing stages, locks, buoys, inland ports, cargo handling equipment, road and rail access and cargo storage spaces. The ‘conservancy’ measures to be taken by the IWAI include dredging, closure, diversion and abandoning of channels. It is significant to note that there is no mention whatsoever of protection of natural flow of rivers or of river life and diversity or of the rights of dependents on river life and river banks.

A combined reading of the Nationalization of Inter-state Rivers Act and the Inland Waterways Authority of India Act indicates that these enactments frame the utility of the rivers to shipping and navigation and nothing beyond this. As a result, the authority is granted power to remove or alter any obstruction or impediment in the national waterways and the appurtenant land which may impede the safe navigation. My mind cannot fathom how the IWAI will recognize the rights of the fishing community and protect the diverse river wealth or facilitate passenger transportation and river tourism when its only mandate is to consider rivers as the exclusive channel of shipping and navigation. This is to be viewed in conjunction with the business plans of MPT and corporate magnates importing and handling coal. It is evident that Goa’s rivers are to be modeled into speedy highways of coal transportation and anything else to be flagged as obstruction.

Destruction versus development

There is no dispute that we need coal for power industry and for further national development. At the same time, Goa should not be made to pay the irreparable price for such development. It makes political sense for any new government to take unpopular and anti-people decisions in the very first year as it gives safe time for damage management. However, succumbing to the coal lobby in the manner it is proposed would do irretrievable damage to Goa in terms of fish wealth, tourism and control on the river resources. The state government should summon a detailed scientific study from National Institute of Oceanography on capital dredging of rivers and a cost-benefit analysis from the Goa University on Goa becoming a coal hub. The MPT business plans on coal handling should be put on hold pending the above studies.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Curses of Goans will have on GFP & Team. They will have to answer God. Because of GFP & Team, today Goans are in trouble. GFP (Goenkaran Fotopaechi Party).

- Jack De Goan, Goa | 06 th May 2017 15:55

 

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