GOA Infra Project Red Flagged- Key Findings and Recommendation by the CEC Panel

Synopsis – The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) recommended changes to the rail track doubling project in GOA.  The project would have destroyed the fragile ecosystem of Western Ghats.

Introduction –
  • The Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) gave clearance to linear infrastructure projects within the boundaries of Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in Goa.
  • The Goa Foundation filed an application against this decision before SC -CEC.
  • The CEC examined the proposal cleared by the SC-NBWL for the three linear projects in Goa —
    • Doubling of railway tracks.
    • Four laning of a nationwide freeway.
    • Goa Tanmar Transmission Project.
  • These Projects included the diversion of about 170 hectares of forest land and sanctuary land, and the felling of an estimated 37,000 trees. It was impacting the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWS) and Mollem National Park (MNP) in Goa [Western Ghats].
What are the key findings by the CEC panel?
  • Environment impact- The project will destroy the Western Ghats ecosystem, which is one of the country’s most valuable wildlife corridors. It is also a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot.
  • Not justifiable- The doubling of railway tracks will only marginally enhance the capacity of the most inefficient section of the railway network.
    • The estimate by the railways is not based on facts, despite the change in policy on the import of coal.
  • Difficulty in animal movement- The wider openings through the Western Ghats will further fragment the habitat and will make the movement of wildlife across the railway line much more difficult and dangerous.
    • The width of underpasses/overpasses in the proposal, providing for the free movement of wildlife animals, was also inadequate.
What are the recommendations by the CEC panel?

Following are the recommendations by the apex court-appointed panel –

  • Revocation of approval granted by SC-NBWL for doubling of the railway tracks that run through the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.
  • Re-alignment of the Goa Tamnar Transmission Project: The CEC also recommended redrawing and modify the alignment for Goa Tamnar power transmission project, this will help in-
    • Protecting forest cover in order to make way for the 400 KV line.
    • Protecting wildlife- The CEC suggested an elevated structure at strategic locations leaving the surface terrain free for movement of all types of wildlife.
  • Furthermore, the project of making four lanes of existing NH-4A needs to obtain environment clearance [EC] under Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006.
Conclusion

The implementation of recommendations in the proposal would be beneficial. It would aid in the conservation of the valuable forest cover and wildlife in the ecologically fragile and biodiversity-rich Western Ghats.

Source – The Indian Express

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