MARGAO: Scientists have raised objections to the plans of the Central Railway authorities to formulate a new Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the controversial railway double tracking project in view of the Supreme Court (SC) verdict and recommendations of the SC-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on this issue.
Scientists from across the board, who have worked with the Save Mollem movement, have expressed their support with the people of Goa and their endeavour to protect their natural heritage. While the RVNL has decided to conduct a new EIA for the heavily-opposed double tracking project and have approached the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for the same, scientists asked what the purpose for a new study is, given that the CEC has already called this railway line unviable.
This move comes four months after the SC verdict that was based on the CEC recommendations. The SC in its order had stated ‘it is necessary for a detailed study and analysis of the impact of the proposed project on the biodiversity of the protected areas...we uphold the conclusion of the CEC and revoke the approval granted by the Standing Committee of NBWL for doubling the railway line between Castlerock to Kulem.’
The SC had also allowed RVNL an opportunity to submit a fresh proposal if deemed necessary.
For the same reason, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has begun recruiting scientists to put together another comprehensive, brand-new EIA for the same project that has already been studied and documented over the last two years.
“As a Goan and a researcher, science and society must go hand-in-hand. It is confusing as to why a new study is necessary when the CEC called this railway line economically and ecologically unjustifiable,” said wildlife biologist and researcher Dr Nandini Velho, who is from the ‘Save Mollem Citizens Movement’ group.
Girish Punjabi, lead author of the peer-reviewed study on the previous EIA and published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, stated, "I sincerely hope scientists and institutions involved make a reasonable decision not to create an entirely new EIA report, as this will seek to undo an entire community's effort of preventing the double tracking for coal and keeping Goa's Tiger forests protected.”
With the pre-existing, on-ground opposition and scientific research indicating the project's irreversible negative impact on the environment and wildlife, this project has seen scientists from across the board coming together and they will continue to do so.
It may be recalled that after months of engagement from many such local and national bodies, the CEC meted out a detailed report that spoke about how the increased number of trains and wider openings will further fragment the habitat; that movement of wildlife across the railway line becoming difficult and dangerous resulting in high casualties; and about the severe limitations of the existing track.