Mumbai: Multi-cargo port at Dahanu runs into troubled waters

Oct 02, 2015, 07:29 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Locals, activists claim development near Wadhwan point — an Eco-Sensitive Zone — will displace locals and destroy biodiversity; plan mass protest to drive the point home

While the State and Central governments appear to be on the same page regarding the construction of a multi-cargo port near Wadhwan point at Dahanu, in neighbouring Palghar district, locals and activists are up in arms.

The site near Wadhwan point for the proposed multi-cargo port
The site near Wadhwan point for the proposed multi-cargo port

They claim the port will not only eat into local occupations and displace locals, but will also destroy the district’s potential to being promoted as a tourist and education hub. They also highlighted that the proposed location for the port is near an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ).

Locals organised a bike rally on Monday, carrying black flags to express their disapproval for the port
Locals organised a bike rally on Monday, carrying black flags to express their disapproval for the port

Expert speak
Activist Vaibhav Vaze said, “We are against the port near Wadhwan because although this project falls outside the notified ESZ, it will negatively impact the area’s biodiversity. We are not against development, but development at the cost of environment is not acceptable.”

Echoing Vaze’s sentiments, activist Bhupendra said, “A mega protest has been planned for October 2 (see box). We want the government to realise that by constructing a port, it will not only destroy the environment, but also displace locals.

Besides claiming the area’s wildlife, the port will pose a security threat to the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, which is only a few kilometres away.”

Port file
The government wants to set up a multi-cargo port in Dahanu to decongest the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), for which it needs to reclaim land. It is said that the proposed port will be constructed at a distance of more than four nautical miles off Dahanu coast, near Wadhwan point.

In 1991, Dahanu was declared an ESZ by the centre and a special quasi-judicial body headed by Retired Justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari — known as the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA) — was set up by the Supreme Court in order to regulate development in Dahanu.

In 1997, the state pressed hard to build Asia’s biggest cargo port in Dahanu. However, the DTEPA quashed the proposal. The step was taken on the basis of numerous studies that proved that a project of this scale would devastate Dahanu’s ecosystem. It was also in violation of the ESZ Notification, 1991.

Locals alleged that in order to ensure the project does not hit legal hurdles, the government ensured that it falls outside the boundaries of mainland Dahanu and beyond DTEPA’s jurisdiction.

Besides accusing the state of mocking the system, activists alleged that the policy makers have already purchased huge plots near Wadhwan with the intention of reaping rich dividends once the realty prices soar after the completion.

Protest planned
Local fishermen and farmers along with NGO Bhumi Sena will be staging a protest at Wadhwan today to condemn the decision and its negative impact on the biodiversity of the area. A public meeting was held by the Adivasi Ekta Parishad two months ago supporting the Dahanu Notification. Veteran activist Nergish Irani was part of the meet.

Addressing the gathering, Irani had said, “The government has been eying the land in the area for development but they haven’t been able to do so because of the notification, which prevents it from carrying development activities in ESZ. All I want to say is that no one is above the law.

The government will not be able to grab the land. We don’t want industries to come in this green belt, as it would lead to displacement of the tribals and local fishermen community residing here for generations.” The villagers held a bike rally on Monday, where 1,000 bikers participated and waved black flags to express their disapproval.

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