Dusty existence for Vascoites

 Although the decision taken by the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) to stop the coal and coke handling activities at the Mormugao Port Trust’s (MPT) berth numbers 10 and 11 has been welcomed by the people in Vasco, they are demanding that the coal handling activities at other berths of MPT be stopped too.

Coal and coke handling is undertaken in huge quantities at other MPT berths without following the GSPCB and the Environment Ministry guidelines thus resulting in air and dust pollution, which is affecting the lives of the residents of the port town of Vasco.

‘The Navhind Times’ spoke to some of the prominent citizens of the town who were of the opinion that the GSPCB should act strictly and put a stop to the coal handling activities at other berths too.

The parish priest of St Andrew’s Church, Fr Jose Antonio Da Costa, raised strong concern over the air and dust pollution in Vasco. Fr Costa has been against air pollution resulting from coal and coke handling activity, ever since he took over the charge of the St Andrew’s Church, about seven years ago. He said that the people in Vasco are living a miserable life due to the spread of the coal dust. The coal dust particles are seen scattered on to the utensils of the residents and this dust later enters the stomach through food.

As Fr Da Costa was ailing from asthma due to the coal dust particles in his entire room, which was located on the first floor of the St Andrew’s Parish Pastoral office, he decided to shift to another room on the same floor but despite doing that, he still finds himself uncomfortable. According to him, the St Andrew’s school premises and St Andrew’s Church premises are always seen affected with coal dust.

Fr Da Costa said that as the common people in the port town and Mormugao are mostly affected due to the dust pollution, many rich people including industrialists and businessmen have shifted their residences and are presently living in flats in order to avoid being affected by the dust pollution. "People residing in Khariwada face more hardship," he said.

A businessman from the port town, Mr Godwin Dias said that though the GSPCB’s decision to stop coal handling at berths 10 and 11 is an appropriate one, the Board should now shift focus to the other coal and coke handling berths. "Lot of people from the port town are suffering from asthma, chest and other respiratory diseases due to the inhaling of dust," said Mr Dias adding that people in Vasco are not safe unless and until all the coal and coke cargo handling activities are stopped. "People in the port town are not benefited from the handling of coal and coke operations, so why this business should be allowed to continue?" questioned Mr Dias.

Another businessman, Mr Rupesh Pangam said that the particles of coal are affecting children, and the newborns are susceptible to lung diseases. Mr Pangam, who runs a shop in the Mormugao municipal market, said that his shop is always full of coal dust and he is forced to wipe the dust particles at least five times a day. Mr Pangam, who also runs a city bus from Headland-Sada to Vasco, said that the seats of the bus are full of coal dust during his first trip in the morning.

According to Mr Dileshwar Naik, a lawyer, coal dust pollution has become a routine matter for Vascoites. He welcomed the stoppage of coal handling at berths 10 and 11 but said that the GSPCB should not make an ‘U-turn’ in the future. "It is seen that government authorities take ‘U-turn’ after being satisfied with the working style of the companies, but in this case the GSPCB must think on humanitarian grounds as the dust pollution has increased to a great extent, playing with the life of the people," said Mr Naik.

A journalist from Vasco and the general secretary of Shree Damodar Bhajani Saptah Samiti, Mr Santosh Khorjuvenkar, said that he was born and brought up in Vasco and that along all these years the level of pollution has increased in the town and that is affecting the lives of thousands of people. He said that the GSPCB should take necessary action against companies involved in handling of the coal and coke operations. "A large amount of coal and coke is imported to the other berths of MPT and the pollution level has shown an enormous rise," said Mr Khorjuvenkar and opined that it is necessary that the agencies stop the coal and coke handling activities without any fear. [NT]