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Indian activists oppose plans to make Goa a coal transportation hub

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CHENNAI (Reuters) – Indian activists and politicians in Goa, world famous for its pristine coastline and dense forests, oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modis’ government plan to turn Goa into a coal transport hub.

Tourists relax at a cafe on Baga Beach in Goa, March 16, 2008. REUTERS / Punit Paranjpe / File Photo

Residents and activists protested against three infrastructure projects – the expansion of a highway, railway and electricity transmission network, according to local media, claiming they were crossing environmentally sensitive areas.

The dual tracking of railways, national highways 17B and 4A 4-lane, … is purely for coal, thus destroying our villages, displacing local communities, Goencho Ekvott, an umbrella organization of about two dozen groups of advocacy, Goas chief minister Pramod Sawant said in a petition on Tuesday.

India wants to increase handling of coking coal at the state-run port of Goa, which could be transported to steel companies in the state’s north.

Campaigners say the projects are also likely to lead to the felling of thousands of trees in environmentally sensitive areas that are home to wildlife and bodies of water.

Alina Saldanha, member of the state assembly of the Modis Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wrote to the federal environment minister last week, saying she had serious concerns about environmental permissions granted to certain projects .

Saldanha said the railroad expansion project would affect thousands of people, destroy the environment and make life impossible due to noise pollution and coal dust pollution, making people prisoners on their own land.

Scores of people are completely opposed to the plans and their voices have not been represented, Saldanha said in an Oct. 7 letter reviewed by Reuters.

Nilesh Cabral, Goas’ electricity minister of the ruling BJP-led coalition, said a majority of people in Goa supported the project.

I am not for coal, but I am for the development of the nation, Cabral told Reuters.

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Mark Potter

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