Responding to the investigation in The Indian Express on the health hazard and environment damage caused by the transport of coal from Mormugao Port in Goa across the state over road, rail and river, the Union Ministry of Environment has asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to provide air quality status at all port cities in the country. And Union Minister for Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources Nitin Gadkari has said that his Ministry will “check all the issues raised and we will not do any work in Goa which affects the state’s environment.”
Speaking in Panjim after a mid-term review meeting of major ports under the Sagarmala umbrella, Gadkari said: “I do not want to force development on Goa…It’s up to you (Goans) whether you want it or not. On coal issue, I have seen myself….I traveled down the highway and I counted 10 coal trucks that crossed me. They all were covered. Even then, if Goans say they have grievances, It will be checked. Some are politically motivated, and there is a microscopic minority which always opposes everything in this country. I will have to respect them as that is their right under democracy. But in this country, there is a balance between environment and development. We will look into all the issues raised carefully,” he said.
“We will not do any development by opposing the wishes of Goans. We will look to other states. We are looking at Vijaydurgh. We will shift out…whichever activity you oppose we will shift it out…I have asked the Mormugao Port Chairman to check all the points raised (in the series).”
Meanwhile, in an emailed response to The Indian Express, Union Minister of Environment Harsh Vardhan said: “The issue of air pollution at Goa Port has not been formally brought to our notice in the Ministry previously. However, the matter as informed has now been referred to Central Pollution Control Board to submit necessary details on the basis of adequate monitoring data from the Goa Port on the basis of existing National Air Quality Standards.”
He added: “In case of non-compliance of air quality standards at the port, necessary measures will be taken to identify the source of pollution and issue such directions as necessary under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.”
Last week, Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal had said that the Railways has started exploring a design change in its rolling stock to see if coal and other minerals can be carried in covered wagons instead of open ones to prevent coal dust from contaminating the environment.