In a surprising revelation, Canacona based NGO ‘Goenkar’ who is fighting to preserve and save the ecological biodiversity on Karmal Ghat section of NH66 has said that the PWD National Highways in their own wisdom has reported that the distance from Patradevi to Polem NH66 road is 93km which is in fact 136km.
This has been purportedly done to avoid Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) alleged the members of “Goenkar’.
Environmental assessment is required for this road expansion project as the road proposed for expansion from Patradevi to Polem is more then 100km and 45 mt wide.
Team Goenkar a civil society group has come up with this important revelation and has blamed the PWD National Highway authorities in Goa for adopting immoral procedures and practices which will cause environmental devastation, they said.
The expansion of existing NH-17 (now NH-66) from km 475.040. to km 611.00 (Patradevi to Pollem Section) in the State of Goa for a total length of 136 km is a highway expansion “project greater than 100 km involving additional right of way or land acquisition greater
than 40 mt on existing alignment and 60 mt on re-alignment or by-passes”.
“Under item 7 (f) of the EIA Notification, 2006 for which a prior environment clearance for the project in toto is required from the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change. However, the Public Works Department, Goa the project implementing agency has bifurcated the total length of the highway (136km) into 5 packages to circumvent the requirement of conducting an EIA study and obtaining prior EC (Environmental Clearance) from MoEF as mandated by MoEF”.
Jack Fernandes president and Vikas Bhagat general secretary of ‘Goenkar” informed that the stretches which have been excluded from the present project from km 474.040 to km 611.000 (Patradevi to Pollem) although forms part of the said alignment are:
Mandovi Bridge (Km 515.00 to Km 518)- 3kms, Zuari bridge (Km. 523.00 to km 535.00)- 12kms, Margao Bypass (Km 545.00 to km. 535.00)-9kms and Canacona Bypass (Km 586 to km 603.00) -17kms.
Thus, a total length of 41 km is excluded and bifurcated into 4 separate packages from the total length of km 475.00 to km 611.00, thereby reducing the length of the highway for which forest clearance is sought to mere 93km.
The project bifurcation is done with the intent to circumvent the provision of EIA Notification dated 22.08.2013 and evade preparation of EIA and obtaining prior EC from this Ministry, alleged the Goenkar members.
This important revelation was also brought in the notice of ‘Regional Empowered Committee’ Bangalore, Fernandes informed.
Fernandes also informed that the road expansion through the forest stretch at Karmal Ghat in Canacona, Goa which requires diversion of 29.8 ha of forest land and felling of
13471 endemic trees which will be disastrous to the fragile ecology and will destroy both flora and fauna in the area.
It also be noted that the NGO had filed a PIL in High Court who vide order dated 9th June 2020 had disposed the PIL as being pre-mature as the forest clearance proposal for grant of ‘stage-1’ forest clearance was still being considered by this Committee on its merits and demerits.
However, the High Court had kept open the petitioners right to challenge any adverse decision of this Committee.