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Union Minister Shripad Naik responds to GFP on coal handling issue

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Panaji: Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping, Waterways and Tourism Shripad Naik on Monday replied to Goa Forward Party Chief Vijai Sardesai’s request to look into the matter of Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) being turned into a ‘coal hub’.

On July 18, 2021, Sardesai had written a formal letter to Naik pointing out that his portfolios are, at the present moment, very relevant to the future of our beloved and beautiful state of Goa.

Naik was given the portfolio of Ports, Shipping, Waterways and Tourism in a recent union cabinet reshuffle.

“I am in receipt of your email dated 18 July 2021. I will examine the matter which has been mentioned and take a decision in the interest of the state,” the union minister responded on Monday through a letter.

Earlier in his letter, Sardesai had told Naik that he (Naik) had taken charge of the portfolios “at an extremely difficult and, at the same time, appropriate period for the future of Goa and for the future generations of Goans.”

“Over the last many months, Goa is facing the looming spectre of being transformed into a coal transportation hub with no benefit to Goa or Goans, but which will only spell disaster for the ecology and environment of our natural endowed state,” Sardesai said.

“On the one hand, the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) is using The Major Port Authorities Act 2021 to gobble up nearly the entire coastline and all riverbanks, while the nationalisation of 6 Goan rivers along with the 3 linear projects in the Western Ghats will deprive Goa and Goans of the rest of their natural heritage,” he had added.

 

All these laws and projects threaten to destroy our natural beauty and finish Goem as a tourist destination. With the mining industry closed down, tourism is, today, the only viable economic activity on which a majority of Goemkars depend. But the prospect of becoming a coal hub will sign the death warrant to our tourism. Our traditional fishing communities and industry will also disappear if coal transportation through our rivers becomes a reality.

 

As Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping & Waterways, you, sir, must be aware of the fact that the only beneficiaries of making Goem a coal transportation hub will be the big business lobbies who will transport the coal and the MPT. No industrial activity in Goem will benefit, and benefits for Goemkars, if any, will be extremely marginal. However, the end of tourism and fishing, which is a natural corollary to coal transportation, will bring on, not only environmental disaster to our Goem, but also economic ruin to all Goemkars.

 

The common Goemkar has been protesting and demonstrating against the intentions of the State Government to push ahead with all the above projects which threaten our Goem. The Goa Forward Party has supported and joined these protests as they are in the interests of Goem and Goemkars. However, the State Government has not paid any heed to the voice of the people, for reasons unknown to us. Each and every Goemkar feels that the interests of big business lobbies are being given preference over the hopes and aspirations of the common Goemkar. The State Government has even taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic of the last year and a half to speed up the conversion of Goem into a coal hub. All through this time, Goemkars have felt the absence of a leader at the Centre to foster and care for their wishes and desires. Goemkars feel they have no voice to be heard in Delhi ! The common Goemkar only wants his land to remain a beautiful, environment-friendly state which can become the ideal international tourist destination. He does not want any polluting industry or activity to spoil Goem and looks forward to your presence in Delhi to ensure this.

 

You, sir, have been blessed with the two portfolios which can permanently solve this problem that threatens the very existence of our beautiful state. As Minister for Ports, you can take immediate steps to halt the development of Mormugao Port as a coal transportation hub and act to convert it into a tourism port, as it has the potential to become one of the most preferred cruise destinations of the world. I also request you to advise the MPT authorities to put a full stop to their expansionary motives and concentrate on making the port a truly international port for high-class tourism. As Minister for Tourism, you are in the ideal position to promote, not only Mormugao port, but all of Goa as a tourism destination with a difference, promoting clean, healthy and family tourism.

 

I sincerely request you to act immediately before you are assigned any other responsibility. I know that, as a true Goemkar, your intentions are of the highest order. On behalf of all Goemkars, I request you to translate your intentions into actions to save our Goem as a treasure to be bequeathed to our future generations.

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