PUDUCHERRY: The much-touted Puducherry port project undertaken in association with the Chennai Port Trust is in deep trouble as Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi has suggested dropping of the project and using the port land to develop tourism.
A memorandum of understanding was signed between CPT and the Puducherry government in New Delhi on March 15 for handling of cargo between two ports. Puducherry government looked forward to generate revenue and employment through the port operations, while Chennai port was aiming at decongestion.
For the operations to begin and ensure navigability, dredging of the inner channel of the port from the mouth of the harbour was required. The problem erupted when the Dredging Corporation of India’s (DCI) dredger engaged to dredge the mouth of the harbour and discharge sand on the shore between Old Pier and Gandhi Statue for the beach nourishment project was made to dredge the inner channel of the port filled with sewage and muck.
This not only threatened the beach nourishment project but also caused pollution.
Bedi suggested that the matter be referred to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), as dredging in the channel was taken up without environmental clearance from the Department of Science Technology and Environment (DSTE). Moreover, sewage and garbage flowing into the port channel through Uppar drain, Grand canal, Pallavaikal canal and Murungapakkam canal were being discharged into the sea against environmental norms.
Though the PWD was directed to erect grids to prevent garbage from entering the port channel, it was not done for want of funds and as the process was complicated. Even if it is done, it will require another team to clear garbage collected at the grid points, failing which water will overflow from the canals into residential areas. Moreover, a lot of houses, which are yet to have underground drainage connection, have been letting out the sewage into the drains. There is no connection from the drains or the port channel to the sewage treatment plants to treat the sewage before letting it out into the sea.
Bedi thought the blocking of the sand movement by the improperly designed port to be an everlasting problem and the development of the port would compound the complications.
“Puducherry will have to eternally invest in sand nourishment and for the politicians, it would be a hen laying gold eggs,” claimed Bedi.
She believed that if the amount of money spent on dredging could be diverted for the welfare of fishermen and if the port can be developed into an alternate tourist spot, it can contribute to both ecological and economic development.
“Unless the port is dismantled, the problem will persist and all the resources pooled in by the government will go down the drain,” she said.