The development of the Vizhinjam International Seaport is a massive undertaking that would considerably alter the coastline of the district. And yet, the crucial issue of coastal erosion has not been sufficiently addressed in the environmental impact assessment, according to A.J. Vijayan, an expert on coastal issues.
He was speaking during a discussion held under the aegis of the Coastal Watch group to point out the shortcomings of the EIA report, ahead of the public hearing scheduled for June 29 to obtain the environmental clearance for the Vizhinjam International Seaport. He said that as per data made available by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, a government body, Thiruvananthapuram district was more prone to erosion than other districts.
The Asian Consulting Engineers (ACE) had examined the changes in the shoreline within a 10-km radius in the envisaged port area.
The extent of changes that human intervention could render had not been analysed and most of the erosion and shoreline build up were not seriously discussed, Mr. Vijayan said. He added that the terms of reference for the environmental clearance specify that the project could not be implemented in high erosion zones.
Former additional director of the department of fisheries, Sanjeev Ghosh, shared his concerns on the implications of construction of breakwater reefs, underwater rock dredging and sand-mining.
He pointed out that the ‘Wadge Bank’, an ecological sensitive area where abundant varieties of fish breed, was not far from the Vizhinjam coast and constant movement of ships through this pocket could severely affect this region in the Indian Ocean.
A long-term vision as to how the livelihood of fishermen would be affected was also missing. Even slight changes in the water quality could have a profound impact on the ecology of the region, he said.
Moreover, participants of the meeting held on Saturday at the AICUF centre near General Hospital, also found fault with the Malayalam translation. This version included only an executive summary and so was vastly inadequate material to go forward with a public hearing. The viability of the landlord port model was also questioned along with the long-term financial feasibility as the State government would have to set aside a significant chunk of the annual budget for a project that would take 30 years to complete.
One member also said it was unrealistic to place a time frame of 10 years just for construction, considering the slow pace at which infrastructural projects, even minor road widening works, unfold in the State.