Updated: June 29, 2021 8:01:25 am
Activists and environmentalists in Goa have opposed a notification issued by railway authorities for acquisition of land in South Goa for construction of an approach road to a Road Under Bridge (RUB) near Curchorem railway station in connection with the double tracking of the railway line from Hospet-Tinaighat to Vasco-da-Gama railway station.
The doubling of the railway line is one of the three projects in Goa that have met with opposition from environmentalists and locals who shaped the ‘Save Mollem’ movement since November 2020.
The Amche Mollem campaigners said the fight against transporting coal through the state of Goa continues to be “whitewashed by a handful of industry brands that form small, tight benefactor circles”.
In a notification of June 14, the Railway Ministry through South Western Railway (SWR), that is the Construction Organisation, declared its intention to acquire land in villages in South Goa for the Special Railway Project of Hospet-Hubli-Tinaighat-Vasco-da-Gama doubling in Goa. The construction of the approach road to the RUB in Curchorem is being carried out by the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL).
The Central Empowerment Committee constituted by the Supreme Court had said in its report of April 23 that it does not find any justification in the doubling of railway track from Castle Rock in Karnataka to Kulem in Goa.
In a statement on Monday, the Amche Mollem campaigners said, “This new notice comes as a shock to the people’s movement on ground, which has been consistently fighting to preserve Goa’s natural and cultural heritage from becoming yet another development structure that only benefits a handful.”
Goa Foundation director Claude Alvares said, “Protecting wildlife is not an anti-national activity. With one railway track we are going through so much misery and hell and they want to double it for transporting offending material like coal.”
Abhijit Prabhudesai, a member of Goyant Kollso Naka, said, “We condemn the government for its attempt to increase coal transportation through Goa by constructing the second railway track. This is not just against the people of Goa but against national interest.”
The SWR and RVNL said that while NGOs and activists had opposed the new notice, there was no opposition from the farmland owners. They said that the alignment of the land to be acquired for the approach road to the RUB was redrawn after farmland owners had said after the first notification of December 24, 2020 that their land was being eaten into.
“The approach road for underpass 211B near Curchorem yard is being proposed in the Village Cacora and Curchorem. This will facilitate diversion of the major part of the traffic of LC-16 (level crossing) situated in between Curchorem yard which is being closed. For this approach road earlier the notification was issued with a 10mtr width road. Some farmers requested to divert the road to the edge of their plots. Accordingly, the road was re-aligned with width of 8 meters to reduce the land use. This re-alignment reduced the land requirements from 0.5736 Ha to 0.4142Ha. Accordingly, the earlier survey numbers were dropped from the notification and the new plots in the new alignment have been notified in the Gazette of India,” said S B Sahoo, General Manager, RVNL. He said that the work of the construction of the approach road was underway unobstructed.
A spokesperson for the South Western Railway said that the approach road to the RUB (211B) was necessitated for the RUB because it is the railway ministry’s policy to close all the level crossing gates for enhancing safety. While NGOs and activists were opposing it, land owners were not. “There has been no opposition from the land owners or local farmers,” he said.