More than 1,500 residents from villages near Vadhavan in Dahanu assembled at the proposed site of the Vadhavan port on December 2, 2020 to oppose a survey by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) said Indian Express.
Under the banner of Vadhavan Bander Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (VBVSS) farmers, fisherfolk, tribals formed a human chain of 1.5 km at the Shankhodar beach to denounce the project that they believe will harm the environment and their livelihoods. Adivasi Ekta Parishad Kaluram Dodhade and all leading activists were part of the protest.
According to VBVSS working President Aniket Patil, locals decided to oppose the making of the port despite police requests demanding cooperation for the biodiversity survey.
“They told us that we could also be present during the survey. But what kind of a biodiversity survey is conducted in one day? It is seasonal. Shouldn’t it be held over a year at least?” he said.
Patil argued that the Shankhodar beach, an ecologically sensitive area, is one of only three places in India where you can find live conches. The mangroves, corals and moss in the area are ideal for fish seeding. As a result, fearing loss of important resources, villagers asked investors not to invest in the port that could potentially harm the environment.
Nonetheless, the JNPT on Tuesday said the survey had already begun.
Earlier, on November 28 the JNPT assured that it was complying with terms of reference (TOR) issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for prior environment clearance. They also said that the JNPT would be working towards environmentally sustainable port development, including preventive and mitigative measures for port services, in national and state interest.
The Trust assigned works to reputed government agencies for conducting multiple technical studies to obtain the environmental clearance. The Central Water Power Research Centre (CPWRS) is directed to assess the impact of flooding in creeks and dredging. The National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, is setting up an environmental management plan to understand the effect of dredging on marine ecology, and biodiversity impact assessment. IIT-Mumbai is assessing the impact of increased inhabitation and resolution method for congestion free roads and improvement in artery road. Further studies also include undersea noise on cetaceans and concentration of carbon in seawater. The JNPT clarified issues related to compliance of the environmental clearance with the district collector and the principal secretary (Environment).
Although the organisation assures that it is sympathetic to local aspirations, the issue of constructing the thirteenth major port in India, could be yet another flashpoint between the central government and the state government.
The Union Cabinet on February 5 granted an in-principle approval for the port with an estimated cost of Rs 65,544.54 crore. The JNPT and the Maharashtra Maritime Board are development partners for the project with 74 per cent and 26 per cent equity share, respectively.
In October 2019, 1.5 lakh voters from 10 villages in Palghar boycotted the state Assembly polls to protest the construction of the Vadhavan port. The VBVSS representatives, then backed by Palghar Shiv Sena MP Rajendra Gavit, met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on February 28 to oppose the project. Thackeray assured them that the decision regarding the port will be made after talks with all stakeholders.