Goa Church backs agitation against new airport

Panaji, Sep 21 : The Church is backing an agitation against the state's proposed second international airport in north Goa, a senior priest leading the protest against the project said Saturday.

The new facility will come up in Mopa, a village 40 km from the capital.

Fr. Eremito Rebello and other members of his civil society group who have been campaigning against the proposed airport for more than a year now were addressing a press conference in Panaji.

"The (Arch) bishop has asked me to go ahead with my conscience...the Church is also against the Mopa airport because the land on which the project is coming up is agriculturally rich and a lot of farmers will be displaced," Rebello said.

The Goa government has already set the ball rolling for acquisition of over 80 lakh sq metres of land for the project located on the Mopa plateau near the Maharashtra border.

Goa presently has one functioning airport, an Indian Navy run facility located at Dabolim, 35 km south of Panaji.

According to the Goa government, increasing passenger traffic combined with military restrictions on timing and access to areas within the airport had forced both the central as well as the state government to consider building another airport in north Goa.

The Mopa airport project has been at the centre of a political storm, almost creating a north-south divide in Goa.

South Goa politicians claim that once Mopa airport is operational the military airport at Dabolim would be off limits to civilians and hence kill the tourism industry there.

North Goa politicians say Mopa airport would create jobs and usher in development.

According to Rebello, politicians with vested interests were creating a north-south divide over the Mopa airport issue.

"The entire game is that of land value speculation and political benefit," the priest said. A group of farmers have now approached the Bombay High Court seeking a stay on the land acquisition process.

Over the years, the Church in Goa has been active and a participant in popular agitations against issues like the state land use policies, mega real estate projects and rampant industrialisation.

--IANS (Posted on 21-09-2013)

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