CHENNAI: The public hearing for the Kattupalli Port expansion by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ), which is investing Rs 53,031 crore, to ramp the port’s capacity from 24.65 million tonnes (mt) per annum to 320 mt, will be held at 10 am on September 5.
This comes nearly 2.5 years after a public hearing scheduled for January 22, 2021, was deferred by the Tiruvallur district administration due to the pandemic. The proposed revised master plan development of Kattupalli Port by Marine Infrastructure Developer Private Limited (MIDPL) will be carried out in 2,472.85 hectares, which includes 133.50 ha of existing area, 761.8 ha of government land, 781.4 ha of private land and proposed sea reclamation of 796.15 ha. The planned expansion will also make Kattupalli India’s deepest port with an average berth depth of 25m.
According to the notice issued by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the public hearing will be held in Kalanji village. Sources told TNIE that Kattupalli port officials were pushing for a public hearing since the Terms of Reference (ToR) issued by the environment ministry will expire in October. When contacted, the port officials said this was the public hearing that was deferred in 2021 and has been rescheduled now. “In the meantime, we have revalidated the baseline data and assessed the biodiversity of the area. We have fulfilled all the ToR conditions.”
While he was the leader of the Opposition, Chief Minister MK Stalin opposed the project and stated that if elected his government would not give a nod to the project. Sources said that discussions were held and now the government has decided to allow the public hearing to go ahead to gauge the mood of people. “We can’t stop the public hearing. It’s an opportunity for the people to express their opinions,” a senior bureaucrat said.
On the impact on Pulicat Lake and the bird sanctuary, the draft comprehensive environment impact assessment submitted by the MIDPL shows that Pulicat Lake is located 7.2 km from the project site and the bird sanctuary boundary is just 3.17 km. Forest department sources said the proposal for an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) for Pulicat bird sanctuary was in the pre-draft stage. “Until the ESZ is notified, the default 10 km will apply. Kattupali port expansion would require clearance from the National Board for Wildlife.”
Pulicat fishermen have demanded that the state government declare Kattupalli coast as a ‘high erosion zone’, which would prevent mega projects in the region. Erosion triggered by ports constructed in the southern portion of Kattupalli island is already eating into Korakuppam and Sattankuppam villages.
As per the recent shoreline changes assessment report of the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), 18 km out of 40.97 km in Tiruvallur was experiencing erosion, including the Kattupalli coast.
The port officials, however, said that the revised master plan addresses this issue and that it has a detailed shoreline management plan with the combination of both soft (sand bypassing) and hard measures (groynes).