In February 2021, the central environment ministry gave its initial approval for the Indian railways to construct a second track on the railway line connecting Goa and Karnataka.
The proposed track would pass through the dense forests of the Western Ghats, including the Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and the forests near Mollem in Goa. The clearance permitted the felling of at least 22,000 trees in these areas.
The Save Mollem campaign in Goa is opposing the railway project, which is one of the projects they are protesting against. In November 2020, hundreds of Goans held an overnight sit-in on the railway tracks to protest against the project.
The project is being funded by the Centre’s Sagarmala program, which is a port connectivity scheme aimed at linking the Mormugao Port in Goa with Karnataka.
The port has stated that the completion of the railway project is critical to its future growth, as it will enable the transportation of imported coal to steel and power plants in Karnataka.
In July 2020, the National Board for Wildlife’s standing committee requested the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to conduct a site inspection of the proposed railway project passing through tiger habitats, in accordance with Section 38O(1)(g) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The committee submitted a report to the NTCA in July, which contained photographs of the proposed project area covered in monsoon mist, with dense forests and steep cliffs on either side of the existing railway track.
The report also included photographs of dead snakes on the tracks and forest department records of elephants and bison killed by trains.
The report criticized the environment and biodiversity impact assessment report prepared by Indian Institute of Science professors Raman Sukumar and T.G. Sitharam for the railways.
The NTCA report stated that the impact assessment lacked critical assessment and merely reiterated the project proponents’ views.
The report also highlighted a conflict of interest, as Professor Sukumar was a member of the National Board for Wildlife, which assesses such projects for wildlife clearance.
Additionally, the NTCA report mentioned that the project may have a greater impact on the forests than what is currently estimated.
The report also noted that the mitigation measures mentioned in the impact assessment were “fairly generic in nature” and did not take into account the ground realities, making some suggestions impractical and theoretical.
Save Mollem campaign
#SaveMollem is an environmental campaign that was launched in the Indian state of Goa in 2020. The campaign aims to protect the biodiversity and ecology of the Mollem National Park and the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, which are located in the Western Ghats region of the state.
The campaign was launched in response to a proposal by the government of Goa to construct several infrastructure projects, including a railway track, a highway expansion, and a power transmission line, through the Mollem National Park and the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary.
The proposed projects are expected to have a significant impact on the flora and fauna of the region, and environmentalists and concerned citizens have been raising their voice against these projects.
The #SaveMollem campaign has gained momentum on social media, with thousands of people using the hashtag to show their support for the cause. Environmental activists, scientists, and academics have also joined the campaign and have been conducting research and organizing protests and rallies to raise awareness about the issue.
The campaign has also been supported by several celebrities, including the Bollywood actors Dia Mirza and Randeep Hooda. They have used their social media platforms to spread awareness about the issue and urge people to join the campaign.
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