Environment clearance from Centre awaited, says K. Babu

The work on the Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport will commence by the end of this year if the environment clearance is received, Minister for Excise and Ports K. Babu told the Assembly on Monday.

Replying to questions in the Assembly here, the Minister said the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) report from L&T Ramboll and International Finance Corporation was ready. The two reports would be collated and the Kerala State Pollution Control Board would be asked to hold a public hearing.

On the basis of this, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) would be approached for the clearance. Steps were on to prepare the tender documents for construction, he said.

Warehouse at Kottukal

The Minister said the government had pumped in Rs.420 crore for the project and Rs.276 crore had been earmarked this financial year. As much as 90 per cent of the land needed for the back-up area and road and truck terminal (108.50 acres) had been acquired. Steps to acquire another 100 acres at Kottukal for a warehouse were in full swing, he told the House.

Steps to mobilise finance for the project had been completed with the bank consortium led by the State Bank of Travancore (SBT) agreeing in principle to provide Rs.300 crore; HUDCO Rs.500 crore; and India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd. Rs.200 crore. The government was going ahead with the procedures to issue bonds to the tune of Rs.800 crore for the project, Mr. Babu said. The Minister said the project would be on the landlord port model, where dredging, reclamation, and basic infrastructure, such as construction of breakwater and quay, would be done by Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd., a fully owned company of the State government.

Stating that it was Colombo and not Tuticorin which was giving competition to the Vizhinjam project, Mr. Babu said the government had not approached the Centre for funds as the landlord port model was being adopted. (The State is mandated to raise funds for this model of development).

The government was committed to making the project a reality as it was a dream project. Tenders had been invited for laying a 220-kV line from Balaramapuram to Vizhinjam and another one from Balaramapuram to Kattakada.

Work to make available water had been completed and 530 of the 600-metre road had been completed. The work on the road to link the NH bypass will be taken up after the National Highways Authority of India completed the work of the bypass from Kovalam, he said.