Chairman of Visakhapatnam Port Trust Ajeya Kallam has assured to take short term and long term measures to bring under control the pollution caused by handling coal, iron ore, and fertilisers.

Responding to numerous allegations levelled by agitated activists and others at a round table conference on the issue convened by the VPT here on Friday to hear the public grievances and find solutions to the problem, he said as many as nine projects were being taken up at a cost of Rs.3,500 crores for mechanical and automated handing of the cargoes which would result in reducing pollution. “Three of these projects have already been awarded and six more will be awarded by September,” he said, adding that these projects would result in minimisation of pollution levels. The VPT was also spending over Rs.15 crores on the sprinkler systems and other short-term measures.

The conference began on a stormy note, as the activists did not allow Mr. Kallam to make his opening remarks. He pacified them and began the proceedings, but there were repeated interruptions through out as the activists did not allow many speakers to have their say.

Mr. Kallam explained to the audience that there was no sudden increase in the pollution levels at the port or there was no sudden increase in the quantity of iron ore or coal handled at the port in the past two or three months. It was dry weather conditions and unusually high wind speeds this summer that saw coal dust getting scattered over a larger area in the city, and despite watering and other measures, the problem was being felt by the public. The VPT was taking all steps such as covering the conveyer belt and sprinkling the coal stacking yards to suppress dust but uncongenial climatic conditions were accentuating the problem.

Several speakers squarely blamed the port management for the coal dust encircling several parts of the city. An advocate M.A. Rasool of Kotaveedhi said he had been fighting against the port for nearly two decades. He had filed several writ petitions in the AP High Court and the court had given directions to the port management but the latter did not comply with the directions, he stated.

Congress MLA Dronamraju Srinivasa Rao lamented he was not able to face the public and warned the port management thatit may have to face the wrath of the public ifthe issue was not addressed. Environmentalist T. Shivaji Rao and retired official of Warning Centre here JVM Naidu tried to explain that the port was not entirely to blame for the aggravation of pollution this summer, as uncongenial climate was also contributing to it, but they were shouted down.

President of Praja Spandana and advocate Lanka Jagannadham said he had already served notices on the port management, the district administration and the AP Pollution Control Board on the issue.

Technologies were available abroad andit should be possible to implement those measures if the port management were really sincere and serious about pollution control. Leader of the Committee to fight pollution in Vizag G.A. Narayana Rao, consumer activist Sai Leela and others felt the port should stop handling the dirty cargo for some time if the climatic conditions were not congenial and suggested use of aerial sprinklers.

District Collector J. Syamala Rao promised that the port management wouldinitiate the necessary measures and appreciated the initiative of Mr. Kallam for holding the round table. VPT Deputy Chairman GVL Satya Kumar gave a presentation.

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