A Goa cabinet minister took to a video-conference platform to answer questions and address concerns of people of the state. He ended the public webinar with an assurance of setting up committees to resolve the concerns raised.
Power and Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral allowed citizens to see him work in his secretariat office, clearing files while he answered questions from various stakeholders on Tuesday. The two-hour webinar saw representation from environmentalists, agriculturists, industrialists and even a local clergy.
While Cabral was “not able to fully satisfy his audience”, the panelists agreed that the initiative was a first and much needed step in engagement.
The plan for three linear infrastructure projects cutting across the Western Ghats was up for discussion. The projects — including power transmission line, and expansion of railways and roadways — are expected to take shape once they get regulatory clearances. However, the local population has raised concerns as lakhs of trees may be affected.
Through the session, Cabral emphasised the “need” for the projects. To questions on the power transmission line, he said, “Everybody wants to improve his lifestyle and our existing power infrastructure is crumbling.” He reiterated the need for the infrastructure “to advance industry”.
To questions from environmentalists about “lack of transparency”, with documents missing from the MoEF website, Cabral said he would make the documents concerning the three projects in Goa available on the state environment ministry website.
On the railway line, Cabral said the concerns were genuine, but added, “People in the hinterland want to travel to cities. These trains make everyone wait and precious time is lost as they are trying to use a single track. With double tracking, people will see their efficiency increase.”
He said, “These trees that you say will be cut. Let’s make sure that project proponents plant three times as many trees. I assure you we will make monitoring committees, which will have members of the public who will ensure the project proponents plant the promised trees. And we will ensure all the solutions are arrived at together. We cannot solve everything. I know 100 per cent damage cannot be restored. But if we start engaging and discuss the problems, some solutions can take shape.”
Captain Viriato, one of those who attended the webinar, said he was not satisfied with all the answers but appreciated Cabral for holding such a meeting.
Industrialist Blaise Costa Bir said, “I will give it to the minister for having come in public and answered questions. It is to be seen if his assurances are kept. I am an industrialist, but I am a Goan too and I have to answer to my children. These trees that are going to be cut, and the heritage of Goan homes at risk is too big a cost.”
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