Vasco fishermen have cast their net to rein in the MPT who they blame as the biggest backer of pollution in the port town. This face off between traditional folk and Vasco’s main institution, is getting bitter by the day. SHOAIB SHAIKH speaks to Olencio Simoes, General Secretary of the Goenchea Ramponkaracho Ekvott
The Fishermen community of Vasco is strongly objecting to the expansion plans of the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), with the Goenchea Ramponkaracho Ekvott (GRE) alleging that the MPT has been a constant violator of environmental norms and the expansion plans of the port will lead to destruction of the Port town.
Speaking to Herald, GRE General Secretary Olencio Simoes said that the coal pollution from the MPT is affecting not only Vasco but also residents of Dona Paula. “The MPT earlier was a manual port and now it is mechanised and therefore the functioning is now faster and the quantum of handling has increased manifold,” he added.
Raising concerns on behalf of the fishermen community from Khariwada, Olencio said that in the name of maintenance the MPT dredges about three million cubic metres of silt.
He said “The current length of the channel is 14.5 metres, they want to make it 19.5 metres. Because of this dredging half of the coastline of Khariwada has already been eroded and if we allow them to continue then the rest also will be eroded.”
Expressing fears of losing land and becoming homeless, he said that the fishermen now face difficulties to park the canoes. And if expansion continues whatever remains of the Khariwada beach will also disappear.
“In addition, to avoid coal from catching fire, they put up sprinklers. The water from the bottom of this coal goes straight into the sea and especially during the monsoons, millions of litres of this water get into the sea and the fish breed is getting affected”, he stated.
Speaking about the violations he said, “An example of MPT’s violation is that last year the MPT without obtaining the environment clearance went ahead with the dredging in the river Zuari and when we approached the NGT, the tribunal ordered a stay. MPT further approached the Supreme Court and even the apex court ordered in our favour. The Goa State Pollution Control Board has itself issued so many notices.”
However, when pointed out that the MPT would be connected directly through NH-17B to the national highway bypass, he stated that the expansion plans are of 20 years behind and would require further expansion as per today’s requirements. Even the four-lane Verna-MPT road is a busy stretch and it would require a 6-lane given the present requirements.
Pointing at the inability of the MPT to solve the basic problems, he questioned, “When they cannot control these aspects, how can the people of Vasco and the fishermen accept an inch of expansion of the MPT? Why should people of Vasco suffer for the benefit of some private players?”