YOUNG voices asking the government to hear them made for a rare setting as children and youth held a press meet in Panjim asking the government to scrap three linear projects crossing the Western Ghats —- a first such meet in the country.
With their points neatly listed, they read taking turns, with the youngest speaker –– a ten year old –– as they explained the projects and the damage they believe they pose to the environment and the state of Goa, and stood representing themselves, “the future of Goa”.
“Imagine playing a lottery, it’s like when 1,000 people play at the cost of 999 people, the pooled money benefits one person… that is what is happening at Mollem,” explained Leander Fernandes as he questioned who really benefits with the three infrastructure projects. Urging others to visit Mollem and understand the ground realities, he added, “The youth today is standing here urging to revoke the projects one hundred percent. We want clarity where the projects have been granted as till today, there is no paper work. Be transparent with us.”
Standing next was a young conservation biologist who reminded the crowd of the “ecology value” of the protected areas and asked the government to care about Climate Change with Goa being a costal state. Asking how three linear projects — power line, expansion of national highway and double tracking could cross an “eco-system older than the Himalayas”, Gabriella D’ Cruz, wondered how could the Goa government not make any effort to protect its tiger corridor. “Please tell me how a power line, railway and a highway is beneficial to a wildlife sanctuary,” she posed an open question to the Goa Government. “We will not be known as the generation that loses our forests and we will continue to do everything to safeguard our forests,” she added.
Explaining the purpose of the meet, Ethan Jose pinto added, “Our goal is to spread awareness and to articulate a vision of development we want to see in Goa which is grounded in local, cultural and scientific and legal values. The vision of development does not involve destroying forests.”
Five demands –– which include scrapping the clearances given to the projects, asking the MOEF to return the proposals to the project components and restore the forests in its natural form, has been openly made by the children. “May be after these demands are met we can have a discussion,” added Mervyn Periera.
Sabira Shaikh another young voice stood to further appeal to the Government to direct the forest department not to issue any order allowing non forest activity.
“This is not rocket sciene. This is the easiest step for the chief minister and forest minister to take,” explained Princy Fadte when her turn came.
Valerie Afonoso, added one more aspect asking the double tracking on non forest land be stopped, “given that you don’t have all clearances and you are doing the project in a piece meal manner to pressurise us,” she said pointing to project proponent south western railway. In less than 30 minutes — the children had put all their demands with another student Dariana Lobo summarising the anger saying the people need to be taken into confidence and no decision in public interest can be taken without any discussion.
“You are destroying our future and this tokenism is blatantly apparent and we will not compromise in our intergenerational equity…” she added.