Waiting And Waiting For A Mining Corridor
AFTER much delay, the state government has approved the proposal for construction of a dedicated mining corridor in South Goa at a cost of Rs 179 crore. The work on the mining corridor is proposed to be taken up in two phases by the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC). The first phase between Uguem and Guddemol is estimated to cost Rs 74 crore and the second phase between Guddemol and Capxem Rs 105 crore. The corridor will facilitate movement of trucks carrying ore without plying on the main roads. The diversion will help curtail road accidents that have claimed lives and reduce dust pollution and traffic jams. People from mining areas have been demanding a dedicated mining corridor for long. In 2012, the state government drew up plans for executing the project but abandoned it following suspension of mining in September of the year. The government later finalized a proposal for construction of mining corridor over two years ago but the work never took off. The work on the project was then estimated at Rs 150 crore, which has escalated to about Rs 180 crore.
The corridor project, if it starts soon, would bring cheer to the people of Sanguem, Quepem, Curchorem and other areas who had come together under the banner ‘Mission Bypass’ to raise a demand for it. According to rough estimates, over 6,000 trucks were transporting ore on a daily basis and many of the drivers in order to maximize the number of trips to earn more by way of incentives used to resort to over-speeding. In 2016, people residing in the mining areas had warned that they would not allow transportation of ore unless a special corridor was constructed. Despite promises on different occasions made by governments and ministers over the years the project was not started. It remains to be seen whether it would be taken up at least this time around or whether the latest announcement is just to mollify the mining dependants and prevent them from upping the ante against the government in view of its failure to get mining resumed. Early beginning of work on the mining corridor would send signals to the mining dependants that government was taking steps towards resumption of mining and reduction in the dust pollution and the number of accidents and casualties.
It appears that though the proposal has been fleshed out, the financial approval to go ahead with the project is yet to be given by the finance department. Besides, forest clearance for the first phase is yet to be received, though one for the second phase has been obtained. The government had earlier said that land had to be required for completion of the project. The government has not made any announcement that it has completed the land acquisition process. If the government is truly keen, it should get the GSIDC to start and complete the project in a time-bound manner. Whatever needs to be done to clear the remaining obstacles on the way should be addressed at the earliest. The government had earlier abandoned the project because of suspension of mining. Let us hope it does not wait for resumption of mining to start and complete the corridor project. The corridor would prove very convenient and useful once the mining activities resume. If the government quickly starts and completes the project it will also save itself from the escalation in costs.
The ban on mining is blessing in disguise for the state government, which can use the opportunity to expeditiously complete the project, which will help in making mining and transporting ore safer as also reduce the number of accidents and human casualties. The state government should take up with the ministry of environment and forests to expedite clearance of the first phase of the mining corridor. If the ministry raises any issues before granting the clearance, the state government should ask the forest department and other departments to address them on a priority basis. The state government should also grant financial approval to the project without any delay. The mining corridor project should not be treated like yet another infrastructure project. It is integral to the Goan economy of which mining has been for decades a key sector for income generation. Mining corridor will improve ore transportation on the one hand and improve the lives of the people living in the mining areas on the other.