CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) is considering a proposal to deepen the Thoothukudi harbour basin and approach channel to handle 15.02 metres draught vessels besides modifying the port entrance. Sources indicated that TNSCZMA is verifying whether the Rs 5,720 crore project comes under the proposed eco-sensitive zone. This is because Thoothkudi port is close to eco sensitive zone which has pearl banks, corals and conch beds.
This comes after Ministry of Environment and Forest has been asked to study the impact of dredging and dumping on marine ecology and draw up a management plan through the National Institute of Oceanography or any other institute specialising in marine ecology.As per Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011, the foreshore facilities for the activities and operations of ports and harbours are permissible activities but they require the consent of Ministry of Environment and Forest.
Currently, VOC port has a draft constraint of 12.8 m, which allows only partially loaded Panamax vessels to enter. Fully loaded Panamax vessels and cape-size vessels cannot enter the port and they have to do partial offloading at anchorage. Similarly, channel width limitations also restrict the entry of large vessels. The new proposal plans to increase the length of approach channel from 3.80 km to 10.35 km where the natural depth is available at 17.20 metres. It also plans to increase the width of port entrance from 153 metres to 230 metres to ensure safe entry of large size vessels.
While the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) has furnished a map showing the project is not an high eroding stretch, the coastal zone management authority for Thoothkudi district has recommended the project for clearance indicating the project falls in Coastal Regulation Zone-I (B) inter-tidal zone, CRZ-II and CRZ-IV.
According to sources, only after confirming that it doesn’t come under the proposed eco-sensitive zone, the project is likely to get clearance from Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority