Commencement of work on the Vizhinjam International Transshipment Project may be delayed because of the time needed for completion of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
The indication emerged as Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh held discussions with officials and peoples’ representatives here on Monday. The Minister, who visited the project site and interacted with local leaders and officials, is slated to hold a press conference in the afternoon after discussions with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on environmental clearance for the project.
During interactions with the leaders, the advisor to the Union Minister, Nalini Bhatt, said the marine biology, proneness to erosion and the project’s impact on the local fishing community would have to be studied. The study, which could start during this monsoon, would have to continue until next monsoon, and the situation prior to and after monsoon would have to be assessed.
Local leaders of the political parties who met the Union Minister supported the project noting that it would bring jobs and other opportunities to the poor fishing locality. The Minister enquired whether the proposed port would have any impact on the Vizhinjam Fishing Harbour.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited Manoj Joshi informed the Minister that the port would make the operations of the harbour smoother. The entry and exit for boats from the fishing harbour would become easier. The local leaders pointed out that fishing habours functioned near Kochi and Chennai ports, and complained that international lobbies were trying to undermine the project.
Mr. Ramesh enquired about the advantages of the location especially in relation to Colombo port and whether a port previously existed at Vizhinjam. The Minister was told that there was historical reference about a port at Vizhinjam. It would be easier for ships to berth close to Vizhinjam because of the depth of the sea. It had advantages over other ports in that respect. Besdies, Vizhinjam was close to the international sea route and the project would be viable if it could corner12 per cent of the container transhipment traffic now going to Colombo.
The Minister was accompanied by State Ministers V. S. Sivakumar, K. Babu and Ganesh Kumar, MP Shashi Tharoor, MLA Jameela Prakasam, Chief Secretary P. Prabhakaran and other officials.
Keywords: Vizhinjam port project