World Bank on Tuesday declined to be associated with the controversial fishing harbour project at Pudukuppam-Murthykuppam, which was planned for revival by the Puducherry government under the ‘New Disaster Risk Reduction Project’.
Following objections raised by the NGOs, a World Bank team which visited the site and reviewed the `9.4-crore project suggested that the government submit an alternate proposal for fishermen that could be taken up through the assistance of the bank .
A study should be taken up for finding out the environmental implications of the project as directed by Ministry of Environment and Forests, the team suggested after the visit.
The project was earlier stalled by the Lt Governor of Puducherry in 2010 after taking into account the adverse environmental impacts.
The project involves construction of a jetty, dredging the sand between the Mullodai backwaters and the sea to provide a channel and construction of breakwaters in Murthykuppam-Pudukuppam.
Sources here said that a north breakwater is proposed at a length of 200 metres with a depth of 4 meters, while the one in the southern side will be 240 metres long. Dredging was supposed to be carried out to maintain a depth of 0.2 metres and 1.1 lakh cubic metres of sand had to be removed.
“A jetty was constructed before the project was stalled. The proposal to construct breakwaters and opening of the Mullodai channel and linking it with the sea at an estimated cost of ` 5.5 crore has been tabled to the World Bank team,” an official had said coinciding with the visit of the team.
Alliance for Good Governance (AGG) , an umbrella outfit of several organisations, has been objecting the project on environmental grounds.
“After the development of the new port, another man-made disaster is being planned by the officials when they are not able to manage the coastal erosion,” says Probir Banerjee, of Pondy Can, an associate of AGG.
Activists claim that the presence of sand dunes has saved the lives of hundreds of villagers at the time of Tsunami. If the mouth is opened, sea water will gush through the Mullodai channel and will make the Bahour lake as well as the entire area saline. Moreover, the salinity will spread to Penniyar river also. The breakwaters will also lead to the accumulation of sand south of the fishing harbour, which in turn will lead to the clogging of Penniyar, affecting Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Instead of disaster reduction it will make the area disaster-prone, said Banerjee.
The activists also pointed out the remarks made by the joint director of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Bengaluru, Dr Sridharan after he visited the project site in 2010. In his report the joint director said it is high time for the government to prepare and launch a detailed implementation plan after due consultations with experts and by integrating all the concerned departments and stake holders for managing the coastline and to solve the issues arising out of developments which are taking place in the coastline.
The information received through RTI reveals that the PWD has obtained a clearance for the project from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) stating that the mouth was open and only got blocked after the tsunami, Banerjee added. The activists claimed that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or public hearing is being conducted before implementing the project.
The AGG said they will send a representation to the MOEF to stop the project. But the government is of the view that the project will be useful to fishermen and has cited another similar project on Vellar river mouth in Cuddalore district that was approved by the World Bank.