Mormugao port expansion: public hearing adjourned third time

Analysis by non-profit Centre for Science and Environment reveals flaws in the project’s environmental impact assessment

By Soundaram Ramanathan
Published: Saturday 01 December 2012

The public hearing for Mormugao port expansion was adjourned for the third time on November 25. The port located in South Goa is planning to develop a waterfront west of the existing port. N S Navti, additional collector who chaired the public hearing, adjourned the proceeding as he was confronted by local people who said they were not aware of the details of the project since the environment impact assessment (EIA) report was difficult to access.

Public hearing is a mandatory proceeding under the EIA Notification of 2006 for projects which have applied for environmental clearance. As per Section 2.4 of Annexure 7 of the EIA Notification, it is the responsibility of the respective state pollution control boards to make the EIA reports available at the district magistrate's office, public libraries, panchayat offices, district Industries office and concerned regional office of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The first public hearing for the port expansion project was to be held on July 24, but it was postponed due to Vasco Saptah festival. The second hearing scheduled for September 16 was adjourned as the Goa State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) failed to give a clear 30-day notice for the public hearing. Prem Kumar, superintendent engineer of Mormugao Port Trust said: “The company is not worried about the monetary losses because the project has not been executed, but we are wasting a lot of time over this public hearing process. There is no issue concerned with EIA submission by the company.”

Savio Correia, Goa State Environmental Council member, said the council had raised the contention at the beginning of the public hearing that the project has not complied with Anexure 7 of EIA notification. The additional collector questioned the Goa SPCB on the issue who admitted that they have not followed section 2.4 of the Annexure. Hence, the public hearing was adjourned by the additional collector.

Correia had requested Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment for an analysis of the project's EIA. The technical analysis by CSE brings out many shortcomings in the report (See ‘CSE analysis of port expansion project’).

Meanwhile, the Goa SPCB has recently withdrawn the consent to operate for berth 10 and 11 of Mormugao port, Correia added.

Goa SPCB refused to comment on the public hearing . An official said the SPCB recently declined to give consent to operate for coal handling at the port as severe air pollution was observed in the area. Consent to operate is a certificate issued by an SPCB and it is essential for a company to function.

CSE analysis of port expansion project

The EIA has been prepared by Quality Council of India approved environmental consultant, WAPCOS Ltd.

Impact on fish

The report says there will be no impact on fish species. The fish would return to the site after the project's completion. The EIA report says that since “the fishes are free swimming they very well avoid such areas and move to safer areas. Once the turbidity is over due to currents, they come back to the area. Due to this capability of the fishes, no significant adverse impact on fishes and fisheries is expected as a result of dredging.”

But the CSE analysis found that the impact on marine ecology has been assessed using non-standard parameters. Factors such as gross primary productivity GPP, community respiration, chlorophyll have been discussed in the marine ecology impact assessment. But there are no standards defined for GPP and community respiration. Therefore, it is not possible to assess whether these figures are good or bad. And the determination of these factors considered in the EIA report cannot be accepted as impact predictions. A comparison scenario on what happens if the project gets executed and what if it does not is not clear.

More detailed study required

Aspects such as the water cycle of the project, impact on abstracting ground water, coastal erosion, air pollution during the port's operation and impact on the nearby recreational area have not been discussed in the EIA report.

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