Valiyathura harbour project delayed

The Valiyathura fishing harbour, for which fishermen in the region have been campaigning for nearly a decade now, is still hanging in the balance despite the State government issuing fresh financial sanction for an environmental impact assessment (EIA); the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, completing its model study; and the Harbour Engineering Department (HED) completing the detailed project report (DPR).

The single impediment in the way of the project, according to official sources, had been the ‘reluctance’ of the Ports Department to grant consent to hand over the land required for the project despite repeated reminders and requests in the last one year. The land belonged to the Port Department but clearance had been withheld without explanation. (The port was once the only port on the South Kerala coast. It became defunct and lost its significance with the advent of the Kochi port).

The project, estimated to cost over Rs.60 crore, had got a revised clearance last year from the government for a model study at a cost of nearly Rs.40 lakh by IIT, Chennai, and the study was submitted earlier this year, following which the detailed project report was prepared by the HED. According to HED officials, after the model study and the DPR were readied, the department called for tenders from agencies accredited by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to conduct the EIA. Only L&T Ramboll came forward. With the estimate put forth by the firm being way over the department’s calculations, Rs.18.5 lakh instead of Rs.2 lakh, a revised financial sanction was requested from the government, and also for moving ahead with the single tender. The sanction was accorded two weeks ago and the EIA would take at least six months.

Despite the Ports Department being informed of all developments, there had been no move to hand over the land, officials told The Hindu. HED Chief Engineer N. Mohanakumar said fears about the project causing coastal erosion in nearby areas were misplaced, since the DPR had incorporated protective measures including installation of T-groynes to prevent this. The project, for which the Centre will shell out 75 per cent of the cost with the State to handle the rest, required assurances on time-bound completion and availability of land, officials said.

The Valiyathura Thuramugha Samrakshana Vikasana Samithi had threatened to launch agitations if the delays were not dealt with at the earliest.

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