Special Correspondent

Says material is non-hazardous and facilities are needed

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has dismissed two petitions relating to nine tanks for storing edible oil, which are to be constructed/are being constructed for the Chennai Port Trust (CPT). The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice H.L. Gokhale and Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar, did not find any merit in the petitions.

The principal submission in both petitions, filed by K. Mohan and M. Pushparajan, president, Royapuram Kudiyirupor Nala Iyakkam, was that the tanks were near a residential neighbourhood. It would be hazardous to permit the facility there.

While one prayer was that the CPT be restrained from putting up the structures contrary to the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act and the Environment (Protection) Act, the other was also the same though it also sought that the port be restrained from installing the tanks to store molasses in the residential area without the approval of reconversion/reclassification of the area from Chennai Metropolita Development Authority (CMDA) and clearance from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

The petitioners said they were apprehensive following the recent fire and explosions in tanks storing petroleum products in Jaipur. P. Wilson, appearing for CPT, submitted that the activities of a major port were multifarious. They were not confined to providing berthing facilities to ships as was the position some years ago. The Major Port Trusts Act (MPTA) laid down that the Board of Trustees of a given port may execute such works within or without the limits of the port and provide such appliances as it may deem necessary or expedient.

The Bench said it could not be disputed that it was only edible oil which was to be stored in these tanks. The material was non-hazardous.

There was a large requirement of edible oil for a growing population and it was being imported. The facilities had to be near the port area. Ships carrying oil were waiting for a berth and had to be relieved at the earliest. Storage of oil near the port was essential.

The survey number concerned was part of the port’s property. The structures were temporary and the material to be stored was not inflammable. Requirements of the CMDA would not apply to these constructions in the port area the moment the structures were covered under the MPTA.