All eyes on his handling of CZMP, coal, Borim bridge and Rassaim jetty issues
Newly sworn-in Minister Aleixo Sequeira, a five-time MLA has got a vast experience of handling the Environment portfolio during his earlier stint from 2007-2012. However, having said that, the Minister faces an acid test on the contentious – State and public centric issues like finalisation of Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) 2019 and coal handling and transportation related projects like doubling of railway line.
“Will try my best to live up to the people’s expectations and do whatever possible. Let me take over the charge and understand each issue before commenting in detail,” Sequeira said.
CZMP to be finalised by May 2024: It took close to five years for his predecessor Nilesh Cabral to prepare the CZMP 2011 for Goa. Ever since the work of preparing CZMP 2011 commenced in 2017, Cabral faced lot of discontent, criticism from locals, environmentalists, NGO and also political parties – before he managed to take everyone on board and get the plan finalised and notified last year.
A similar challenge lies before Sequeira on CZMP 2019, considering Goa has already missed the final deadline of October 31, set by the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA) and as result of which, NCZMA has stalled all the CRZ clearances for government and other projects along the coastal belt based on CRZ notification 2011. Goa is the only State amongst 11 coastal States which is yet to kick-start the process to prepare the plan based on 2019 Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification. While almost all other coastal States have set the ball rolling, we are stuck in the absence of correct 1:4000 scale shape file. The plan will have to deal with demarcation of port limits, illegal structures, zoning of houses, fishing zones, high tide lines, and so on.
State government has already written to the Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) seeking time till May 2024 to complete CZMP 2019. However, there is no relief whatsoever for now. The State has appointed Kerala-based National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) to draft the plan.
Coal & Double tracking of Railway line: If one remembers, he was one of the prominent leader (then Congressman), who walked alongside thousands of Goans with a candle during the historic Chandor agitation raising his voice against coal and doubling of railway track.
With the Environment department in hand, Sequeira will have to grapple with coal related issues right in his backyard in Nuvem constituency. His two villages – Majorda and Loutolim are fighting against track doubling and the construction of the new jetty at Rassaim and Borim bridge – as the villagers suspect these projects are to facilitate coal transportation.
Cabral, had in the past taken stand that State won’t grant any permission to increase the coal handling capacity and will ensure that Goa is not turned into a Coal Hub.
Borim Bridge: Loutolim farmers, just a week back, had called on Sequeira to convey a message loud and clear to the government that the proposed new Borim bridge should not come over their khazan fields, making it crystal clear that the farmers will never sacrifice their khazan lands.
Sequeira is, however, of the view that “when it comes to development somebody has to sacrifice”. But at the same time, the Minister assured to ensure that no houses are demolished.
“I am for a new bridge. As far as alignment is concerned, till this point, I don’t know what alignment is proposed. I had people coming to my place saying that the alignment goes through fields and Khazan land. But when it comes to development somebody has to sacrifice. However, it should be our endeavour to ensure that the minimum sacrifice has to be made. I assure you that I will do heaven and earth to ensure that no houses are demolished,” he said.