Supreme Court likely to deliver its verdict soon
In all probability, dusty cargo will be moved to the Ennore Port in the near future with the Centre asking it to get ready to handle the consignments meant for the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT), in the light of Madras High Court ban.
Last week, Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan asked EPL officials to be ready to handle dusty cargo such as coal and iron ore as the Supreme Court was likely to deliver its verdict soon, based on a report submitted by the empowered committee.
The announcement gains significance as people residing nearby have been opposing any move by the ChPT to handle dusty cargo. The Centre does not want to go against their wishes, though dusty cargo is the main revenue generator and employment provider for the ChPT.
According to official sources, some of the firms handling coal consignments have moved to EPL and Krishnapatnam.
In the last seven months, EPL handled eight million tonnes of coal meant for the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board and power plants in the State.
EPL Chairman-cum-Managing Director S. Velumani said that the port was handling coal and had created separate terminal stock yards for coal and iron ore.
“While the pollution level at EPL is well below the permissible limits, it is above the mark in the adjacent power plants,” he told the Minister.
ChPT officials said they had initiated several measures as suggested by the empowered committee to improve air quality in and around the harbour. Moving coal in rakes was one such initiative.
During the October board meeting of the ChPT, it was resolved to immediately commence work to repair, maintain and revamp the existing infrastructure created for controlling pollution; conduct awareness programme and prepare road map and investment plans for building new infrastructure and environmental monitoring systems among others.
One of the trustees said that the ChPT should draw up short-term, medium and long-term action plans, including investment in machinery.
Another remarked that this problem would not have arisen had the port acted earlier to control pollution.
He suggested that coal be mechanically unloaded, transported to the yard and loaded on to trucks or rail wagons after enforcing dust control measures at each stage.
Representatives of the chambers of commerce and industry said they were ready to support the port in its endeavour to bring down pollution level.
Quoting a field analysis test conducted for more than two weeks, a local representative said that even after the ban on coal and iron ore, the pollution level inside the port was beyond permissible limits.
He wondered whether ChPT was in a position to handle dusty cargo.
Technical experts from Anna University said that technology was available worldwide to bring down pollution caused while handling dusty cargo.
They asked the port to commence a pilot project in one of the berths to assess pollution control measures before extending it to other areas.