02 May 2021 | 05:37am IST
CEC red flag, is a green victory
Earlier this week, in a move that provided huge relief to thousands of locals and environmentalists who have been protesting for over a year, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) submitted its recommendations to the Supreme Court (SC) that have gone against the three linear infrastructure projects – the railway double-tracking, Tamnar power project and widening of the national highway. While it called for the cancellation of the South Western Railway doubling project; it also called for the cancellation of the present alignment of the Tanmar 400 Kv High Tension power line and for it to be taken back to the existing 110 KV line. Finally, it said the national highway expansion project needs to get an environment clearance before proceeding. Here’s a look at the SC-appointed CEC’s recommendations in full
The three linear projects that would pass through the Mollem forests suffered a major setback at the hands of the Supreme Court (SC)-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC), a decision that has been hailed by environmentalists across the State.
It may be recalled that several organisations in the State, including youth-based groups have been carrying out sustained mass protests in every corner of Goa for over a year now against these three infrastructure projects, namely: the railway double-tracking, Tamnar power project and widening of the national highway.
The CEC decision has been viewed as a major victory to their efforts.
The CEC has recommended cancellation of the decision of the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) approving the doubling of the rail track from Tinai Ghat via Castle Rock to Vasco da Gama town. It has recommended that the Sterlite Tamnar 400 Kv High Tension Line be asked to get out of the virgin part of the wildlife sanctuary and move to the alignment laid down for a 110 kV line in 1966. It has accepted the argument of the Goa Foundation that the NH4A road expansion project cannot proceed without an Environment Clearance.
Incidentally, the decisions to grant these approvals were taken a meeting of the Standing Committee of the NBWL, which was chaired by the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar.
The CEC has written to the Registrar of the SC on April 23, 2021, asking him to place its report, with its recommendations, before the Apex Court. The report is based on a complaint dated June 26, 2020 filed by Goa Foundation that had alleged violation of the SC order dated October 5, 2015 and related intervention applications in writ petition regarding matters relating to the National Park ( Wildlife Sanctuaries) and contravention of the Wild Life (Protection), 1972, in granting clearance by the Standing Committee of NBWL in respect of three linear infrastructure projects within the boundaries of Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in the State of Goa.
Below are the recommendations of the CEC in full:
CEC does not find any justification for undertaking a project of this nature which will destroy the fragile eco-system of the Western Ghats which is an internationally recognised biodiversity hot spot and also one of the most important wildlife corridor of the country.
Moreover, this doubling project will only be marginally enhancing the capacity of the most inefficient section of the railway network passing through ecologically sensitive and bio-diversity rich tiger reserve, two wildlife sanctuaries and a national park.
In these circumstances it is recommended for the consideration of this Hon’ble Court to revoke the permission granted by the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (SC NBWL) for doubling of the railway track passing through the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats from Tinaighat-Castlerock in Karnataka to Kulem in Goa involving 120.875 ha of land (protected area 113.857 ha and non-protected area Reserved Forest 7.108 ha) from the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWLS) in the State of Goa and 10.45 ha (9.57 ha Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and 0.88 ha in Haliyal Forest Division) in the State of Karnataka vide minutes of the 56th meeting of the SC NBWL in violation of the guidelines issued by the MoEF&CC under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and in violation of Hon’ble Supreme Court order 5.10.2015 and without considering the justification for the doubling of the most inefficient railway line with 1:37 gradient and with severe restrictions on movement of trains and without considering the availability of alternative railway routes as well as alternative modes of transport.
GOA-TAMNAR TRANSMISSION PROJECT (GTTPL) for laying of electric lines under the transmission scheme “additional 400 kv feed to Goa and additional system for power evacuation from generation projects pooled at Raigarh (Tamnar pool)”
Keeping in view the detailed discussion above CEC is of the considered view that instead of clearing canopy of virgin forest cover along 10.50 km long corridor with 46m ROW in Goa State the proposed 400 Kv line should be drawn along the existing 220 Kv corridor line in Goa State after establishing 400 Kv corridor connectivity between Mapusa and Sangod and 220 Kv line between Sangod and Xeldem.
This activity in fact is also part of the present project approved by CEA. This course of action will ensure adequate supply of power to the Southern Goa Region when the 100 MW of power now being received from Ramagundam through 220 Kv line is temporarily disrupted during the construction phase of 400 Kv line between Narendra and Sangod.
Accordingly the project proposal in respect of Karnataka part will require to be suitably amended so as to make use of the existing 110/220 Kv line corridor. This will also ensure that the commitment given by Power Grid and CEA to the Karnataka Government that no further transmission line shall be laid in the area is not violated. Most important of all this modification in the proposal will help in saving the precious forest cover and wildlife in the ecologically fragile and biodiversity rich Western Ghats.
Keeping in view the above this Hon’ble Court may consider issuing necessary directions to the Ministry of Power, Government of India, Goa State Electricity Department and GTTPL to redraw and modify the alignment of additional 400 Kv line corridor between Narendra (existing) – Sangod (new) in the State of Goa and Karnataka.
Four lanning of existing NH-4A from Goa Karnataka border (Anmod) to Mollem from km 84.133 to km 97.000 in the state of Goa (Anmod to Panjim section)
CEC after examining the 4-lanning of NH-4A road proposed between chainage 84.133 to 97.000 and after considering the long-term management requirement of the park so as to minimise animal road kills and man-animal conflict and also with a view to minimise the adverse impact of 4-lanning of NH-4A has made certain suggestions in the meeting held on 12.4.2021 and vide letter dated 13.4.2021 sought the views of the PWD, Government of Goa and NHAI.
In response the Chief Engineer (NH,R&B) PWD, Government of Goa has incorporated the changes in line with the suggestions of CEC to the earlier proposed plan of four lanning/improvement of the existing Goa/Karnataka border – Mollem Goa Section of NH-4A road. Keeping in view of the changes proposed by CEC and agreed to by the PWD, State of Goa it is recommended for consideration of this Hon’ble Court that the 4-lanning of NH-4A proposal approved by the SC NBWL may be permitted to be implemented with the following modifications:
- The span of the animal overpass proposed at93.850 be increased from the present 12m to 50m
- The span of the animal underpass at 84.400 L be increased from the present 12 m to 100 m with 3 sections
- The proposed 4 lane road in plain terrain be converted to 4 lane elevated road (vi a duct) between km 91/850 and 93/350 km over a length of 1.5 kms
- The length of the proposed 4 lane elevated road (via duct ) is increased from 80m to 363m between kms 84/207 and 84/570
The proposal for diversion of forest land for purpose under Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the NBWL clearance under the Wild Life (Protection), 1972 will accordingly be required to be amended by the project proponents.The project being more than 100 Kms in length, the Environmental Clearance under EIA notification, 2006 is required to be obtained by the project proponent and while doing so the project proponent should keep in view the observation of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka (refer to para 89 of this report) before implementation/continuation of improvement of the 4-lanning of the NH-4A along the 153 Kms stretch between Belagavi in Karnataka and Panaji in Goa. This Hon’ble Court may please consider the above Report and may please pass appropriate order in the matter. The CEC report was signed by Amarnatha Shetty, CEC Member Secretary.