The recently released environmental impact assessment of Chilika Aquatic Farms Ltd (CAFL) by the public sector Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) gives a clean chit to the project,owned jointly by the Houses of Tata and the Orissa state government and forest minister Kamal Nath criticised in July the WAPCOS panel saying it "did not have the necessary expertise".
However, Tata officals insist the report on the Chilika lake covered all the areas about which the environmental authorities had expressed concern. The WAPCOS report notes 6-sq-km prawn farm will have no detrimental impact on fish breeding in the Bhuwaniya channels and the effluent from the prawn pond will be well within the limit set by the Bureau of Indian Staqdards. The report says the project could be life-sustaifflng, as it would be rich in nutrients and would not have toxic wastes.
The report contends it would be wrong to label CAFL's proposed prawn culture as "intensive" because its yield of six tonnes per hectare per year is much below the yield in Japan which can touch 12 tonnes. Also CAFL's proposed extension services would help local prawn farmers and fisherfolk to increase the yield and get better prices. The local yield, the report says, is a low 0.4 tonne per hectare per year.
Environmentalists like Banka Behari Das, who is spearheading the agitation against the Tata project, have condemned the WAPCOS study, saying it does not address itself to the problem of fisherfolk who would be displaced from the project area.
Nevertheless, the report has at least oneready buyer - Orissa chief minister Biju Patnaik.
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