Tamil Nadu

Relocate desal plant project site away from Gulf of Mannar: MoEF

No detailed marine environmental impact assessment was carried out, finds committee

The Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) has directed the Tamil Nadu Water and Drainage Board (TWAD) to shift its project site for setting up a 60 MLD Sea and Brackish Water Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) plant in Ramanathapuram district away from the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park.

Alternatively, the EAC asked the Board to look at the possibility of 100% reuse of the brine water by giving it to authorised salt pan agencies, instead of discharging it into the sea, or set up a salt industry/allied facilities that could consume all the brine generated in case.

The TWAD proposal was to set up the 60 MLD SWRO desalination plant at Kuthiraimozhi village in Kadaladi taluk in Ramanathapuram district at a cost of ₹670 crore. Once the project is up and running, it would generate 94.52 MLD of brine that would be let out into the sea.

The Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority had recommended the project for clearance in January, 2017. The EAC noted that the project site is within the eco-sensitive zone of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park and approximately only about 25 metres from its boundary.

“The Committee desired to understand the compelling reason for location of the site in such a sensitive area and decided that the location should be shifted elsewhere. The Committee noted that the justification cited by the project proponent is unacceptable. It was observed that fishermen are dependent on the Gulf of Mannar for their livelihood and the release of brine certainly will impact not only the fish catch but also reefs, seaweeds, seagrass and the overall ecosystem of the area,” according to the minutes of the meeting that discussed the proposal.

The EAC also found that no detailed marine environmental impact assessment had been carried out for the project and the EIA report that was submitted before it had no information on the impact of the proposed project on the marine ecosystem, including flora, fauna, coral reefs among others. The project did not also have the brine dispersion model results, which are important to understand the fate and dispersion of the brine discharge from the desalination plant.

The EAC said the proposal was premature for consideration in its present form. The committee deferred the proposal for reconsideration to a later stage once TWAD submitted information, documents, and actions directed by it to be taken are submitted before it.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 6:09:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/relocate-desal-plant-project-site-away-from-gulf-of-mannar-moef/article31157553.ece

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