The battle to save the environment has been further strengthened. A new formation, only to fight the Draft CRZ Notification 2018, has been formed, bringing together various non-government organisations and, for a change, even political parties under its banner.
Goans against CRZ 2018 announced their formation on Monday and on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) listing its objections to the draft CRZ Notification 2018. The new formation is quite clear that the changes proposed in the draft are regressive and against public interest, and that they violate the principles of legislation, logic and science.
According to GACRZ, the draft notification is only meant to facilitate the Centre’s ambitious Sagarmala programme, and that it will end up making Goa a coal hub and the six Goan rivers in the list to be nationalised, will be used for shipping cargo. The group also speaks of the devastating impact the new regulations will have on the environment, coastal ecosystem, the livelihood of the fishing community, marine bio-diversity, tourism, local businessmen and the people.
The fears of Goa turning into a coal hub are not unfounded. Despite the people of Vasco, and the rest of the State, opposing coal handling at Mormugao Port Trust, and Goa State Pollution Control Board having in January this year revoked the consent to operate granted to South West Port Limited under the Air and Water Pollution Acts for the company handling coal in excess of the amount permitted, and even filing criminal proceeding against the firm, the board has now decided to permit SWPL to undertake coal handling operations at its berth at MPT.
In doing so, GSPCB has proffered one of the most illogical of reasons for the decision it has taken. The board’s member secretary stunned all by justifying the decision as it was required so that the Source Apportionment Studies at MPT, which are being undertaken by IIT Mumbai, can be conducted. The member secretary’s exact words were, “To determine exact cause or contribution of source of pollution at Vasco, operation of coal was essential.”
Coal handling is not new at MPT and the port, as well as GSPCB, should be having adequate data from past readings to carry out any studies required and arrive at a conclusion. Why then are there scientists or experts if not to arrive at informed decisions without having to actually undertake the activity?
Should a potentially polluting activity be undertaken only to study its pollution possibility? Here is a decision taken by a board that is the guardian of the environment and that has filed a criminal complaint against the same company for excess coal handling, and is unexplainable, as the justification is ‘illogical’. Going by this logic, and if GSPCB is allowed unchallenged in this decision it has taken, it could well in the future decide to cut trees because without cutting them there can be no way of determining what the consequences to the environment can be.
The continued assault on the environment needs to be checked. If it is not the fragile coast that is under threat then it is the airborne pollution through coal handling that comes to haunt. Goans Against CRZ Notification 2018 may even have to expand the scope of their activities to save the environment. Goa is small, just 3,704 square kilometres in size, and any tampering with the ecological balance could lead to far reaching consequences. Who knows, the government may next tell us that the Draft CRZ Notification 2018 has to be implemented to determine whether it will have any adverse effects on the environment. We can’t wait for that to happen, can we? So, we need to stop it while we still can.