Vizhinjam: EIA to be in firing line today

As the draft report on the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Vizhinjam port project faces a public hearing on Saturday, environmentalists are not happy with the manner in which the report has projected the impact of the port on Vizhinjam.

In fact, non-governmental organisation Coastal Watch has gone to the extent of saying that the draft EIA report “reads like a campaign material rather than an objective environmental impact assessment of the project”.

Coastal Watch, which has staunchly opposed the project stating that the project site ‘definitely fell in a high erosion zone and hence was not permissible as per Coastal Regulation Zone notifications, also says that the construction of another breakwater and new fishery harbour along with the existing fishery harbour, as mentioned in the report, could not be done without approaching the Ministry of Environment and Forests separately.

Among the other objections raised, the NGO also alleges that the EIA has not done the social impact on nearby fishing habitations in the right manner.

“Considering the large breakwater and infrastructure, we propose to include the fishing habitations from the southern border (Pozhiyur) and in north up to Veli (river mouth) as the geographical coverage area. This is very important and a new study needs to be conducted. The fishing habitations specified here apparently cover a small beach area of Mullur only. This is totally unacceptable,” the NGO said here, adding that the points would be raised on Saturday.

Environmentalist A. Joseph Vijayan, talking to The Hindu , voiced his apprehension that the construction of a three-km breakwater, unprecedented in the history of the Kerala coast, would have disastrous after-effects on the northern coastal villages.

The issue of sea erosion all along the Thiruvananthapuram coast, Mr. Vijayan feels, has not been dealt with in the right earnest in the report, because if it came out that the site fell in a high erosion zone, the entire project will have to be dropped.

The EIA’s mitigation measures for the erosion aspect, meanwhile, include continuous monitoring of the shoreline with the help of high resolution satellite imageries during the operation phase of the port; and fixing of shoreline prior to the construction phase by the latest satellite imagery and then ‘ground truthing’ on a regular basis with close monitoring and ground markings.

The report also suggests techniques such as sand bypassing from areas where there is accretion (where the sand lost due to erosion is deposited back over a period of time) to areas where there is erosion.

This, environmentalists feel, is highly unscientific and should be examined properly.

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