Cuddalore port project gets green nod

After prolonged delay, the state government’s ambitious plan to expand Cuddalore port at Rs 135 crore got environment and CRZ clearance from the Union government. The plan is to enhance the Cargo handling capacity with construction of two additional berths with required modifications in the existing breakwaters.

An expert appraisal committee of the Union ministry of environment and forests granted clearance, subject to conditions, including independent monitoring by a government/institute to evaluate impact during dredging. “Impact of dredged material on coastal environment along with shore-line changes should be studied by the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board and necessary mitigation measures be taken in case any adverse impact is observed. The details shall be submitted along with the sixmonthly monitoring report,” the committee said. No underwater blasting is permitted.

The expansion plan has come in the wake of the port, which is in existence since pre-Independence days. It came close to being defunct for want of dredging to make the existing wharf operational for multi-cargo handling for 5.68 million tonnes per annum, including coal, fertiliser, cement and containers and clean cargo. Employment potential is said to be 2,500 both direct and indirect.

The plan is to support and sustain the industrial growth in Cuddalore and adjoining districts, especially the serving mines and thermal power stations in Neyveli, besides proposed thermal power plants in the coastal stretch and industrial development in the Union Territory of Puducherry. “The state should ensure the project does not ruin the livelihood of the local community and benefit a private company. In all, there should not be a coal yard,” CPM state secretary and former Chidambaram MLA K Balakrishnan said.

The project was in the news for wrong reasons when the expert committee, in its February meeting, found many discrepancies in the presentation of the consultant and sought point-wise compliance of the terms of reference for the environment impact assessment study. In May, the committee again deferred the proposal after the state representatives failed to attend the meeting. In June, the committee ‘discovered’ that the environmental consultant did not have a valid accreditation certificate since February 2019. Still, the state had uploaded an unsigned copy of the consultant’s environment impact assessment report on the ministry’s portal for clearance. On July 2, the maritime board submitted a letter of accreditation issued by QCI-NABET, for the environmental consultant.

The expert committee also granted approval to hold an environment study for Nambiar Nagar mini fishing harbour in Nagapattinam at a cost of Rs 34.30 crore with contribution from the state and the public. The fisheries department has planned to construct a harbour with fish handling capacity of 25,000MTPA and dredging for one lakh cubic metre for safe navigation of boats.