The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the government immediately drop the proposal to construct a major port near Dugarajapatnam in Vakadu mandal of Nellore district. If the government does go ahead and sets up this port, it will seriously endanger the country’s second largest brackish lagoon, the Pulicat Lake.
A 10-member HRF team visited several villages in and around the Pulicat Lake on Wednesday (March 12). It was clear to us that a large portion of the land being sought to be acquired for the proposed port (5,028 acres in the first phase) is actually located within the northern boundary of the Pulicat Bird Sanctuary and its Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
Apart from being an ecological treasure trove, the Pulicat Lake also sustains the livelihood of thousands of fisherfolk, dalits and Yanadis (STs) who depend on the bio-resources in the area. The port will seriously undermine their livelihood. This valuable wetland, with its rich biodiversity should have already been declared a Ramsar wetland and further steps taken to conserve and nurture it. Instead, the government is seeking to set up a major port in a fragile eco-system. This can only be described as “environmental vandalism.”
Towards this end, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) issued a draft notification on 3-1-2014 seeking to reduce the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) from 10 km to 2 km radius around the Pulicat Sanctuary. This is being done in a surreptitious manner with the sole intention of facilitating statutory clearances for the proposed major port at Dugarajapatnam. This is a brazen attempt to bypass environmental law.
It is a shame that Mr Jairam Ramesh, a former Union minister of environment and forests, continues to maintain the fiction (like he did yesterday in a press meet at Nellore) that there are no “abiding environmental issues” with regard to the setting up of the major port at Dugarajapatnam. The attempt at reduction in ESZ is completely unwarranted and an invitation to an impending ecological disaster.
HRF demands that the MOEF withdraw the notification earmarking only 2 km as ESZ for the Pulicat Sanctuary. No permission must be accorded or relaxation given to establish any ecologically damaging activity like hazardous industries, thermal power plants, seaports or airports in the 10 km width ESZ. The government must examine alternative sites for setting up the port in an area that is not ecologically sensitive. If these steps are not taken and the attempt to set up the port at Dugarajapatnam is persisted with, then there is danger that we may lose this precious wetland for posterity.
VS Krishna B Narayana
(HRF general secretary) (HRF Nellore dist. Convenor)
Villages visited by the HRF team: Anjalapuram, Kondurupalem, Pulinjirivaripalem, Sreenivasapuram and Tupilipalem, all in Vakadu mandal.