Vizhinjam seaport project is on track, says Babu

Draft environmental impact assessment report by December

Minister for Ports K. Babu has said that the draft report of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study for the Vizhinjam international seaport project will be published and submitted for public hearing by December.

Addressing reporters after an all party meeting to seek political support for the project here on Thursday, he said the government would not allow anyone to scuttle the project. He accused a section of tourist resorts of attempting to derail the project at a crucial time when the EIA study had been completed and was due to come up for public hearing. The government, he said, would defeat the move.

The Minister said fresh bids would be invited for the operation of the Vizhinjam international seaport only after the project secured environmental clearance. “The government has also represented the Centre seeking exemption from the cabotage law for the Vizhinjam seaport. We hope to get better bids, once the project secures environmental clearance and gets exempted from the cabotage law,” he said.

He said two or three tourist resorts could not be considered more important for Kerala than the ambitious Vizhinjam project. “The government will not hesitate to acquire the resorts located between the breakwaters if the land is needed for the project. They will be adequately compensated,” the Minister said.

Answering questions, he said he would recommend an inquiry by the Department of Environment into the alleged encroachments in the Vizhinjam area.

The seaport, he said, would not affect the tourism or fisheries sector. “They will only benefit from the cruise terminal and fishing harbour that are part of the port.”

Ombudsman visit

Mr. Babu said the opinion of the ombudsman for the project advisors, International Finance Corporation (IFC), on the EIA would not be binding on the Government of Kerala.

He said the Ombudsman was scheduled to visit the State based on a petition filed by a resort owner Cyriac Kodoth, SUCI leader Shajer Khan, retired Fisheries Additional Director Sanjeev Ghosh, and the Thiruvananthapuram chapter of the Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association, alleging that the EIA study had failed to factor the concerns of the fishing community and the hotel business.

“As far as the government is concerned, it is not the IFC Ombudsman but the EIA Notification 2006 that matters. We are, however, trying to convince the Ombudsman of the ground realities,” he said.

Landlord model

The Minister said the Vizhinjam project would pursue the landlord model under which the government would invest in creating the basic port infrastructure, leaving the superstructure and installation of equipment to a private operator. The revenue from the port operations would be shared between the partners.

He said the project had picked up momentum only after the UDF government assumed power.

“Ninety per cent of the land required for back up area, truck terminal, and road has been acquired and steps have been initiated to acquire 100 acres for a warehouse,” the Minister said.

Fresh bids to be invited after eco clearance

Bid to scuttle project will be defeated: Minister

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