CHENNAI: A three-member Central team is carrying out an environmental assessment of the proposed Kattupalli Port expansion by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ), which is investing a whopping Rs 53,031 crore to ramp the port’s capacity from the current 24.65 million tonnes (mt) of cargo to 320 mt. Express had reported about the expansion and the kind of environmental damage it would inflict on neighbouring Pulicat lake, which is the country’s second largest brackish water lake.
The team has been constituted by Union Environment Ministry’s Environment Assessment Committee, which had deferred the project, following a series of representations received from fishermen and environmental groups, voicing their concerns on the potential environmental risk the port’s expansion would pose.
The central team is on a two-day inspection. One of the team members, MV Ramana Murthy, director of National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), told Express that the team has inspected the areas which are proposed to be reclaimed for expansion. “We have interacted with port authorities, fishermen and received several representations. The inspection would continue on Tuesday with an official from the Union Environment Ministry joining. A report will be submitted to the EAC. Our mandate is to see whether the concerns raised by the fishermen, are adequately addressed by the port.”
Kattupalli currently has approval for constructing five berths with total quay length of 1,900 metres, according to the original master plan. Of this, while two berths are operational, the third is under construction. APSEZ plans to build 9,567 metres of additional quay length besides another 1,250 metres of quay for barge berths and 12 port craft facilities in phases. It has filed a revised master plan with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to begin the approval process, which was deferred. This was the second revised master plan filed by Marine Infrastructure Developer Private Limited (MIDPL), 97 per cent owned by Adani Kattupalli Port Pvt Ltd, in less than a year.
The revised master plan development of Kattupalli Port will be carried out in a total area of 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 expansion will also make Kattupalli, India’s deepest port with an average berth depth of as much as 25 metres.
Durai Mahendran of Tamil Nadu fishermen association from Pulicat, told Express that the central team’s members were very receptive and patiently heard the concerns of fishermen. He said the facilities proposed in the revised master plan of the port involves the conversion of 2,807 acres of the Ennore Creek and its associated wetlands, into industrial real estate. The areas have been earmarked as salt pans, mangroves, intertidal areas and No Development Zone (CRZ 1-A, 1-B, CRZ III (NDZ) and CRZ IV) as per the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan 2018. Activities like reclamation for construction of such facilities is a prohibited activity in these areas.