Shipping min opposes move to draft new policy on port development

Written by Praveen Kumar Singh | Praveen Kumar Singh | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 31 2009, 04:36am hrs
The shipping ministry has objected to environment ministrys proposal to draft a new policy on development of ports, fearing that it could prove fatal for the governments ambitious National Maritime Development Programme (NMDP). The opposition to the proposal has been conveyed in a letter written by shipping minister GK Vasan to minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forest Jairam Ramesh.

Expressing his reservations, Vasan has asked the environment ministry to give a green signal to ongoing projects under NMDP, a four-year-old programme that has failed to catch the desired pace till now. He also demanded expedited environment clearance for expansion projects of 187 minor ports.

On November 3, the environment ministry decided to form a new policy on initiation of port development projects. Till the time such a policy was prepared, it issued interim guidelines that required conducting hydro-dynamic study and comprehensive environmental impact assessment studies to judge the effects of such projects on the shoreline and neighbouring ecology.

We are getting affected due to the guidelines. The main impact is on NMDP projects. We need quick action if we want to meet the target for the 11th Plan period (ending March 31, 2012), a senior official in the shipping ministry told FE.

The expert committee under the chairmanship of MS Swaminathan, which recommended a study on cumulative impact of port projects based on previous three season data, has asked for public hearing on port development projects before giving them environment clearances. There is an in-built delay of 6-8 months in this system. We will be at a loss, if we allow that to happen, the official said.

The shipping ministers letter comes in the backdrop of environment ministry returning the proposal of bidding out of projects at Mormugao Port and Paradip Port-two of the 12 major ports in the country. Also, Maritime States Development Council (a group of maritime states) last month passed a resolution to ask Ramesh for allowing environment clearance to crucial expansion projects at major and minor ports.

In preparation of the new policy, the environment ministry has initiated a micro-level study of changes in the 7,517 km-long coastline of the country due to existing projects and identifying suitable sites to locate the new projects. The policy is likely to come after October 2010. The NMDP initiative of the government envisages increasing the port capacity to nearly 1,000 mt a year with projects allotted by the end of 2011-12, but legal and administrative delays hindered the programme. The 12 major ports are supposed to have a capacity of 650.9 mt per annum, but till now the total strength is 574.77 mt.