Panaji : In the wake of ongoing statewide protests against three major infrastructure projects in Goa, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Sunday said the infrastructure was getting developed not only to facilitate movement of coal but also to benefit other businesses. Speaking at the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Konkan Maritime Cluster, first such project for building maritime industry-related infrastructure, Sawant said Goa was strategically located and had the potential to serve as a maritime hub for export and import of goods as well. “The infrastructure is not being created for the movement of coal alone; so, stop these agitations. We have not started import of coal. Coal has been imported for so many years now. We have not even increased the import of coal. We are carrying out this activity for the development of industries and promotion of export and import,” Sawant added.
The Chief Minister said the series of protests and agitations going on in Goa for the last few months against the infrastructure projects were a hindrance to streamlining of the state’s plans for developing infrastructure, especially for the maritime industry. Nearly 50,000 trees in the Western Ghats region of Goa are marked for axing for multiple central government projects, which include expansion of railway lines, highways, and drawing new high-tension power lines across protected forests and wildlife reserves in the Western Ghats. The projects have already been cleared by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) in April this year.
The opposition, civil society groups and tourism bodies have expressed apprehension, claiming that the projects were pushed at an “express pace” to facilitate movement of coal imported through the Mormugao Port Trust facility in Goa to steel mills in Karnataka’s Bellary district and nearby areas. The Konkan Maritime Cluster was a major step in the country’s plans for developing a ‘blue economy’, Sawant added, adding that the state was an ideal location for building small and big ships as well as a hub for import and export. “Our state has scope to develop the ‘blue economy’ not only in the fishing sector, but in other sectors as well,” Sawant said.