Skip to main content

Govt of India's hurried environmental nod to infra projects faces a student challenge

By Milind Patil* 

Goa is known for its beaches and pristine beauty, toured by visitors round the year from across the world. However, in recent years, it has created buzz due to infrastructural developments like Atal Setu. Despite the existing infrastructure, the State government was trying to introduce three major infrastructure projects, double tracking of railway lines, widening (four laning) of the existing National Highway 4A and construction on new 400kV power transmission line.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, these projects were virtually cleared by the National Board of Wildlife and also got approval from Ministry of Environments and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The proposed projects threatened the forests in and around the Mollem National Park and Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary which spreads across 240 square kilometres and is home to more than 70 mammal species, 235 bird species, 219 butterfly species, 44 fish species, 45 reptile species, and 27 amphibian species in the western ghat region.
Along with Dudhsagar, Hundreds of river feeders originate in these forests which are a lifeline for Goa. The forests affected were also important nature-based tourism sites. The projects planned around 170 hectares of protected area for forest diversion leading to chopping down of 59,024 trees in the sanctuary and National Park.
When locals in the area noticed the developmental projects, they opposed. This was the origin of the Save Mollem Movement. One striking feature of this movement was that it was not started and led by any organization but just by the citizens of Goa. They wanted to save the nature of Goa in its pristine from, protecting them from encroachment. The movement started in 2020 during the pandemic.
No part of the movement involved violence as the protestors used digital means to show their dissent against the projects. The locals started the movement, spreading it through word of mouth to other citizens of Goa. The backbone of this movement were the active students of Goa. The citizens of Goa protested that although the projects were given approvals by the concerned bodies, due diligence was not being done.
The clearances were not in compliance with the existing forest and environmental laws. No proper environmental impact assessment was done and so these projects were a threat to the environment and ecosystem of Goa.
One of the student activists in the Save Mollem Movement, Gilbert Soyus, told me, students played a major role in the movement. Students from various backgrounds, scientific, non-scientific, engineering, arts, and so on wrote letters to the ministry of environment and forests both of state and centre.
Letters also came from locals, professionals, politicians and so on asking the authorities how these projects were approved as they were not in compliance with the laws. Letters questioned the need of these projects as there was always infrastructure in place and were these projects worth the amount of deforestation being caused.
Clearances were not in compliance with existing laws. No proper environmental impact assessment was done on threat to Goa ecosystem
When there was no response from the ministry for the letters, the movement catapulted into a social media movement where social media was being used to bring to the notice of people of state and nation, what was happening in Goa. The concern spread over social media very quick, motivating a large number of citizens, especially students, to join the movement to protect Goa.
Citizens participated in the movement, writing letters to authorities, approaching local MLAs, taking part in protests, putting posts on social media, and participating in other activities. These activities included display of local talent, rich culture like folklore, folk arts, and so on aimed at showcasing how the culture of Goa is about preserving the environment and its rich biodiversity and how the destruction of forests will lead to a damage to the culture of Goa. This is what made the movement stand out from others.
It was all about citizens coming together to showcase Goa's rich culture and how it ties in to protecting the environment, through artwork, parades, song and dance, all in bid to remind the masses of the very essence of Goa. Whoever shared the concern joined the movement spreading the word beyond. Famous Youtubers like Dhruv Rathi covered the story taking the story to national level.
Because of the awareness raised by the movement, few individuals approached the court. A committee from Supreme Court came down for inspection of all the sites. They analysed whether the project followed the environmental laws, what could be the impact of the project and whether the project was necessary. The committee came up with recommendations after careful analysis. The recommendations were as follows:
  • The double tracking of railway line was not required, and it should be cancelled off completely.
  • The recommendation for the powerline project was to move the alignment of the line to an existing line of 100kV. The new proposed line will replace the existing line.
  • The national highway did not have an environmental clearance. It may be allowed, however with a long list of modifications, which need to be approved again before commencing the project.
The recommendation will be put in front of the Supreme Court shortly, as there has been a delay due to Covid pandemic. The projects are on a stay as of now until further decision is being made by Supreme Court.
Save Mollem is an example of how collective citizen and youth voices like Mr. Gilbert Sous make a difference and bring about a change, by means of showcasing local culture, harmony and an immense sense of community and togetherness, by using social media and other peaceful means.
While, the protestors are waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court, they are still concerned about the loopholes in the system that got such projects approved in the first place. So, although this might look like a good win, there’s a long way to go to keep Goa’s pristine beauty protected.
---
*PGP 2020-2022, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore

Comments

SAMIR SARDANA said…
GOA IS THE MOST CORRUPT STATE IN INDIA - AS PER A MAN CALLED SP MALLIK.

THIS IS TO BE EXPECTED AS GOA IS A DEN FOR DRUGS,CONTRABAND,ORGAN TRAFFICKING, HUMAN TRAFFICK,BOOTLEGGING,MATKA,PROSTITUTION,FAKE DRUGS, ILLEGAL MINING,STEALING EXPLOSIVES FROM MINES,COUNTERFEITS. ALL THIS CANNOT HAPPEN WITHOUT THE SANCTION OF THE CM OF GOA. WHAT ILLEGAL MINING WILL BE STOPPED IN GOA,WHEN THE CM OF GOA IS A LARGE TRANSPORTER OF MINING MATERIAL ? ALL THAT REMAINS IS FOR GOA TO LEGALISE CANNABIS FARMING AND USE

https://www.facebook.com/ManishSisodiaAAP/videos/goa-has-the-most-corrupt-govt-in-india-goans-are-good-people-deserve-better/616020059759003/

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/satya-pal-malik-interview-rajdeep-sardesai-goa-corruption-farmers-protest-jk-files-1869292-2021-10-25

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/cbi-sitting-idle-in-goa-great-tolerance-to-corruption-here/articleshow/95263392.cms

https://www.heraldgoa.in/Insight/Corruption-in-Goa-cuts-across-all-parties-and-at-different-levels/181737

THE SUPINE CHARACTER OF GOANS AND THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF CORRUPTION IS PLACED ON RECORD BY CBI GOA - WHICH STATED AS BELOW. CAN THIS STATE DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

“The tolerance to corruption among people of Goa is very high. We are sitting idle, as there is not a single complaint of bribery or disproportionate assets in the state against officers from the people for the past five years,” superintendent of police (SP) of CBI in Goa, Ashesh Kumar, said on Wednesday.

“For the past five years, we have not received a single complaint about bribery, we have not received a single complaint about disproportionate assets. That means there is no corruption in Goa. People are quite satisfied, this is ‘Ram Rajya… because the public tolerance towards corruption is very great here. People are not aggrieved. That means that the central government department officers here are not corrupt,” Kumar said during an event to observe ‘Vigilance Awareness Week’.dindooohindoo

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/95263392.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

TRENDING

'Very low rung in quality ladder': Critique of ICMR study on 'sudden deaths' post-2021

By Bhaskaran Raman*  Since about mid-2021, a new phenomenon of extreme concern has been observed throughout the world, including India : unexplained sudden deaths of seemingly healthy and active people, especially youngsters. In the recently concluded Navratri garba celebrations, an unprecedented number of young persons succumbed to heart attack deaths. After a long delay, ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) has finally has published a case-control study on sudden deaths among Indians of age 18-45.

SC 'appears to foster' culture of secrecy, does not seek electoral bond details from SBI

By Rosamma Thomas*  In its order of November 2, 2023 on the case of Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India contesting constitutional validity of electoral bonds, the Supreme Court directed all political parties to give particulars of the bonds received by them in sealed covers to the Election Commission of India. SC sought that information be updated until September 2023. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Only 12% of schools RTE compliant: Whither 6% budgetary allocation for education?

By Ambarish Rai* Despite Indian state’s commitment of 6% GDP on education, the Finance Minister completely ignored right to education for children and strengthening implementation of RTE Act which makes education a fundamental right in her budget speech . The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, which is a collective of different stakeholders in education, condemns this neglect of a legal entitlement, which is unconstitutional and demand for overall increase in the budget to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and overall enhancement of quality education.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Reject WHO's 'draconian' amendments on pandemic: Citizens to Union Health Minister

By Our Representative  Several concerned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister to reject amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) in May 2022, apprehending this will make the signatories surrender their autonomy to the “unelected, unaccountable and the whimsical WHO in case of any future ‘pandemics’.”

'Ambiguous policy': India late in advocating EVs as energy storage in national grid

By Shankar Sharma*  This is regarding the points raised by the Chief Electricity Authority’s (CEA's) advocacy for usage of electrical vehicles (EVs) as energy storage technology, and few associated issues . An objective reading of what he states should reiterate the enormously growing importance of battery energy storage systems (BESS) in our need to transition to a net-zero carbon scenario for the country.

Union Health Ministry, FSSAI 'fail to respond' to NHRC directive on packaged food

By Our Representative  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed deep concern over the adverse health effects caused by packaged foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats. Recognizing it as a violation of the Right to Life and Right to Health of Indian citizens, the quasi-judicial body called for a response from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regarding its selection of front-of-pack labels aimed at providing consumers with information to make healthier choices.