Eager on port, Oommen Chandy reaches out to environment ministry
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and board members of a proposed port in the state at a meeting Thursday decided to apologise to the environment ministry for violations of environment-related rules near the port during the Left government.
The director board of the Vizhinjam port, headed by the chief minister, met at Chandy's official residence and decided to send a letter of apology for violation of environment rules and regulations by the then Left government, headed by V.S. Achuthanandan.
The apology move comes just days before the appraisal committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) will take a crucial decision Saturday, when an expert appraisal committee sits down to decide the fate of one of Kerala's most awaited project, the Vizhinjam port.
The previous government (2006-11) constructed a road near the project area that had no clearance from the union environment and forest ministry.
"We are waiting anxiously for the crucial meeting because we expect the final clearance for the port project to come," Kerala Ports Minister K. Babu told reporters.
"At today's (Thursday) director board meeting, we (the government) decided to apologise for the error done by the previous Left government for building a road that had no clearance," he said.
"We had to do this because a section of resort owners from the proposed Vizhinjam port area complained about this road," the minister added.
The Vizhinjam port site has a natural depth at 24 metres, one of the deepest in the world and hence requires no dredging.
The proposed port site is located close to the busy international shipping route, and is expected to handle 4.1 million containers annually.
The port is to come up near Kovalam beach and is scheduled to be completed in three phases.
The project cost was initially estimated at Rs.5,000 crore, but was revised five years ago by the Chandy government. Now the first phase of the project would cost Rs.4,010 crore.
The state government will set up the basic infrastructure, while a port operator will look over its daily functioning.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the assembly Achuthanandan dashed off to the project site Thursday and told reporters that there is a section that is trying to thwart the port project.
Speaking to IANS, G. Sudhiesh Kumar, patron of the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA), who had complained to the environment ministry about the violation of the rules, said that they are not opposed to development.
"We wrote to the MoEF because the very same company (Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited) that accuses us of trying to thwart the proposed project and violating rules, violated the MoEF guidelines and constructed the road," said Kumar.
"The KHRA is upset because according to sources, 29 resorts in and around the project area will have to be demolished," he added.
"Of the nearly 500 small and big resorts in and around Kovalam, just 10 of them have all the required clearances and even state-owned guest houses have violated rules," said a private resort owner.
(Posted on 21-11-2013)