Kerala asked to hold public hearing for Phase II of Adani port in Vizhinjam
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has told Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL) to compulsorily hold a public hearing
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has asked Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL), wholly owned by the Kerala government, to compulsorily hold a public hearing before beginning the second and third phases of the project. The project is being implemented in partnership with Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd.
This is being seen as a apparent setback for the transshipment terminal port near Thiruvanthapuram, as several months ago (December 2022), fisherfolk in the area had protested the setting up of a seaport in the locality.
The local population, reliant on fishing, have concerns that the construction of the port will result in widespread sea erosion and destroy their houses and livelihoods. They had demanded that an impact study to be conducted in the area, and plans for rehabilitation of those who lose their homes due to sea erosion and dredging of the Muthalappozhi fishing harbour in Anchuthengu.
Several of the fisherfolk are already living in relief camps.
The public hearing will allow the residents of the area to air their grievances regarding the expansion of the port. As a result of the construction of the port, they claim, sea erosion has moved to the north of the port and soil accumulation to the south of the port.
Phase II of the project involves building another 400 metres of container terminal and another 200 metres of breakwater.
Phase III involves building a further 800 metres of container terminal, adding 200 metres of cruise-cum-multipurpose terminal (Phase I will have 300 metres), a 250-metre liquid terminal for storing petroleum products and another 700 metres of breakwater.
On 3 August, VISL had sought an exemption from a public hearing. The request was made before the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) under the ministry.
Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd had also sought immediate approval of the expansion. EAC rejected the request on August 27 stating that a public hearing was compulsory before the commencement of the next phases of the project.
Meanwhile, the project's existing environmental clearance will expire on 3 January 2024.
In its request, VISL had claimed that no additional land was required for phases II and III of the project, and that the public hearing held on 3 January 2014 for obtaining the initial environmental clearance was for the entire master plan, not just for Phase I.
VISL has submitted that the project area would remain the same, 450.09 hectares, and that the land for ancillary development had already been acquired as part of Phase I.
According to sources, the EAC rejected VISL’s claim and stated that any clearance granted in 2014 was only for Phase I of the project. The EAC noted that the next two phases would change the scope of the project and hence a public hearing was necessary, though the expansion would occur within the existing port limits.
The MoEFCC has now asked VISL to include the issues raised by the public and also the commitments made by the project proponents in the new environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, which it to be submitted to obtain the second environmental clearance.
According to the new terms of reference (ToR), VISL has been asked to conduct an 'erosion and accretion study' around the project area. The company also has to conduct a study on the impact of the project on marine biodiversity, with a focus on the corals, mangroves and mud flats around the project site. These have been a growing concern for the locals.
The new environmental impact assessment is required to cover these details. Further clearance will depend on the findings of the study, the ministry has said.
The validity of the first environment clearance was originally until December 2020, but as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was extended up to 3 January 2024.