The handling or mishandling of Vasco’s ‘Coalgate” by companies transporting coal through our land for steel plants in Bellary has resulted in the Goa Pollution Control Board withdrawing the consent to Operate to the South West Port Limited. But this is far from reaching a closure. In fact the war of attrition will only begin, with SWPL going to court against the Goa Pollution Control Board’s decision.
But it is clear that this major conglomerate is living in compete denial, of what appears blatant to the people of Vasco i.e coal pollution is rampant and the spillage of coal on the railway tracks during transportation has been noticed and documented by Herald.
Today SWPL, blames everyone and everything for coal pollution and is completely brazen about excess coal handling. Speaking to Herald, SWPL's, Vice President said “Once a ship comes with a load it is sometimes more sometimes less and perhaps due to that we may have handled more but the numbers are confusing”. Well the extent of the excess coal handling doesn’t quite suggest that the shipments of coal which arrived at MPT were a little over. Secondly, both MPT and SWPL were aware of the cap on coal handling and this cap was violated with impunity. So there is really no confusion except for the fact that there is no clarity on how two responsible organizations including a central government institution, allowed the limits of coal handling to be breached in this reckless manner, according to the figures of the GSPCB.
South West Port Limited is also trying to turn the pollution argument on its head by listing out other causes of pollution in Vasco like construction work, other industries, the increasing number of vehicles there and potholed roads. And yet it claims that their coal transportation is pollution free. When confronted with the issue of pollution on the railway tracks, SWPL passes the buck on the Railways, blaming them of not providing covered wagons. It almost appears that for SWPL, the onus on controlling pollution lies with all other agencies, while it should carry out the work of coal transportation unhindered.
While the Jindal-owned South West Port Limited is within its rights to protect its business interests and take any decision which affects it business to court, the Goa Pollution Control Board has to keep its focus limited only to two a) Is there pollution on the railway tracks due to coal dust and spillage and b) SWPL should be penalised according to all legal rules of engagement if continuous excess handling of coal has taken place, because excess handling and coal pollution cannot be delinked.
According to one of our readers a ship carrying 125,000 tonnes of coking coal was berthed at their berth no.6 on 9/1/18 at 1242 hrs as per Mormugao Port’s website. The cargo discharge operations are being carried till date. While the GSPCB has allowed all coal which has reached MPT to be transported till January 15 and the Bombay High Court has allowed all vessels which have set sail for Goa laden with coal to unload and coal to be transported, there must be stringent checks against any possible manipulation, to handle as much coal as possible post the withdrawal of consent by the Pollution Control Board.
The MPT and the companies handling coal must realise that there cannot be any objection to genuine activity like transportation of coal. But the people of Goa have drawn a tough line after suffering coal pollution, which is tangible and clear for ages. And hence, irrespective of any blame game indulged in by these companies, including the oft repeated employment and livelihood angle, coal transportation has to be limited to what is permissible and it should be 100% pollution free. These two criteria are nowhere near to being met and thus coal handlers must face the consequences.