Maharashtra: 1,500 villagers come together to protest JNPT’s survey

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |

December 3, 2020 8:12:33 am

Containers at a terminal of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai. (Express Photo: Narendra Vaskar, File)

Over 1,500 local residents from villages near Vadhavan in Dahanu came together at the proposed site of the Vadhavan port on Wednesday to show their opposition to a survey being carried out by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).

Men, women and children came together under the banner of Vadhavan Bander Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (VBVSS) and formed a human chain of 1.5 km at the Shankhodar beach in Vadhavan.

Aniket Patil, working president of VBVSS, said, “The police had approached us for our cooperation for the biodiversity survey to be carried out by the JNPT today. They told us that we could also be present during the survey. But what kind of a biodiversity survey is conducted in one day? It is seasonal. Shouldn’t it be held over a year at least?”

Patil added that residents from the villages of Dahanu, including farmers, fisherfolk and tribals, are all against the project because they believed it would harm the environment and have an adverse effect on their livelihoods.

“This area is ecologically sensitive. It is only one of three places in India where you can find live conches. That’s how it gets the name Shankhodar. It has mangroves, corals and moss, which are ideal for fish seeding. All of this is at stake with this project,” he said.

“We will not allow anyone to grab our ocean and have requested investors not to invest in this project that will import coal and crude products, harming the environment,” Patil added.

In a statement issued on November 28, the JNPT had said, “JNPT is adhering to the compliance of terms of reference issued by MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) for prior EC (environment clearance) for the development of Vadhavan port…” It added that JNPT is taking all measures regarding environmentally sustainable port development, including preventive and mitigative measures for port services, which are in wider interest of the nation and in particular to Maharashtra.

When contacted, JNPT officials said on Tuesday that the survey was in progress.

The Union Cabinet had on February 5 granted in-principle approval for setting up the proposed port at Vadhavan with an estimated cost of Rs 65,544.54 crore. The JNPT and the Maharashtra Maritime Board are development partners for the project with 74 per cent and 26 per cent equity share, respectively.

In an earlier statement, JNPT had said that the MoEF had approved the terms of reference (TOR) of conducting an environmental impact assessment study and instructed the port trust to comply with all conditions under standard terms of reference for receiving environment clearance.

“In compliance with the TOR, JNPT has assigned works to reputed government agencies for conducting multiple technical studies. Likewise, the Central Water Power Research Centre (CPWRS) is directing the impact of flooding in the creeks and dredging. Similarly, the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, is managing the effect of dredging on the marine ecology, biodiversity impact assessment and by setting up an environmental management plan. The studies also include undersea noise on the cetaceans and concentration of carbon in seawater, etc. IIT-Mumbai is assessing the impact of development due to increase in inhabitation and resolution method for congestion free roads and improvement in artery road due to Port,” the JNPT had said.

It had added that JNPT has clarified issues related to compliance of the environmental clearance to the district collector and also to the principal secretary (Environment). “JNPT is sensitive to local aspirations and will make utmost effort to contribute to development of local area and people. It is also committed to the environment and all the stakeholders,” the port trust had said.

With local residents opposed to the construction of the 13th major port in India, the issue is expected to be another flashpoint between the Centre and the state. Last October, 1.5 lakh voters form 10 villages in Palghar had boycotted the state Asse-mbly polls to protest the construction of the Vadhavan port.

Representatives from the Vadhavan Bandar Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, then backed by Shiv Sena MP from Palghar, Rajendra Gavit, had met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on February 28 to register their opposition to the project. The CM had assured them that all stakeholders will be approached before a decision on the construction of the port is taken.

Bharat Wayda, youth leader of Adivasi Ekta Parishad, said, “Our leader Kaluram Dodhade and all leading activists were part of the protest at Vadhavan on Tuesday. We have time and again said that this project is detrimental to the environment and to the sons of the soil. We were asked but what’s the harm in carrying out a survey? But why should I meet the girl if I don’t want to get married? We don’t want to project here so why should we allow this survey?”

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