“It may disturb the Olive Ridley habitat”

The proposed port project at the Subarnarekha river mouth in Balasore district, to be developed by Chennai-based Creative Port Development Limited, appears to have run into rough weather with the wildlife wing of Orissa Forest Department opining that construction of the port may disturb Olive Ridley sea turtle habitat.

Environmental clearance for the project was held up as the Ministry of Environment and Forests had sought a clarification on whether the project was positioned on turtle nesting ground or not.

In a communication to the Forest and Environment Secretary, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) said: “There are movement congregation and mating of Olive Ridley sea turtles in the sea adjoining the Subarnarekha mouth. The construction of the port, its channel and movement of ships may disturb their congregation, mating and movement in the sea.”

The wildlife wing came to the conclusion after noticing carcasses of Olive Ridleys on beaches towards the north and south of the river mouth, including the proposed port area.

The proposed Subarnarekha Port is to be located towards the south of the Subarnarekha mouth. “As per the monitoring report of nesting and mortality of Olive Ridley turtles in the project site located within Hansakara to Subarnarekha mouth, no nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtle has been noticed,” PCCF (Wildlife) said.

However, sporadic nesting of sea turtles was observed towards the north of the Subarnarekha mouth on beaches near Talsira and Kirtania, he said. The wildlife wing submitted mortality report and GIS Map for reference.

The Forest and Environment wing had earlier recommended environmental clearance for the project after the Orissa State Coastal Zone Management Authority , an empowered committee, went through the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study.

The initial capacity of the port would be 10 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) and would be increased to 40 mtpa in 10 years. The port project needs 1,215.43 acres of land for the port area and 1,565.93 acres for the rail corridor. Concession agreement for the port was signed in January 2008.