VISAKHAPATNAM:The public hearing organised by Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board inviting the views of the public regarding the expansion plans of the Visakhapatnam Port Trust was marred with protesters storming the venue here Friday. Residents of Kotaveedhi, members of the Left parties and civic organisations staged demonstrations against the modernisation works of the Port, forcing the police to intervene The public hearing was conducted amid stiff resistance. The VPT had proposed expansion and modernisation of its iron ore conveyor belt at a cost of Rs 2,500 crore. Joint collector J Nivas presided over the proceedings. The residents of Kotaveedhi alleged that the entire area had been severely polluted because of the cargo handled by the VPT. The Left party leaders and civic organisations wanted the VPT to reduce the pollution first and then go ahead with its expansion plans. The joint collector said that the public hearing was intended to elicit protester’s opinion which would be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The leaders and the residents made it clear that they were not against the expansion of the VPT but wanted the port to reduce the pollution. Till the VPT arrests the pollution levels, we would never accept any expansion plans, they said.Founder chairperson of Chaitanya Sravanthi, a noted NGO, Shirin Rehman said that environment impact assessment study for modernisation of the existing facilities and plans to increase capacity of the VPT were misleading and data provided by the APPCB were not matching with the existing pollution levels. The EIA report failed to reveal the risks involved in the expansion of container terminal and mechanisation of iron ore handling complex, Shirin alleged. VPT chairman MT Krishna Babu said that the management had decided to invest Rs 200 crore exclusively to make the port a greenfield one.