“Paradise Lost” -
“India comes to Goa for its vacation. This is not just our problem; this is your problem too. Once we become a coal hub, it will be too late. Nobody likes a black Christmas,” says a Goan resident whose ancestral farm is located near the “coal tracks”. Imagine nearly 25 million tonnes of coal if evenly spread across a standard football field, the toxic black mountain will rise approximately almost 3 km into the sky. That is the amount projected to be unloaded each year at the Mormugao Port Trust by 2020, which is just three years away. By 2030, official records project, this is slated to double up to 51.6 million tonnes each year. In 2016-17, 12.75 million tonnes of coal was unloaded at the port and carried across Goa to power stations and refineries in Karnataka and beyond. Currently, coal that arrives at the port takes three key routes – road, rail and river that slice deep wounds in the ecological heart of the state. My colleague and I, on assignment for Indian Express Newspaper traveled along each of these routes following coal trucks and wagons, on a 600-km trail, to find that the transport of such huge amounts of coal is putting at risk entire habitations in villages and towns. The coal dust is blackening lungs, pushing up incidents of respiratory disorder; it’s threatening fragile forests, paddy fields, countless streams, and rivers, at one place even a tiger corridor, at least two sanctuaries, and an entire hill.