Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Discussion on Dhamra Port, Gahirmatha and Turtles

There is an interesting exchange going on the nathistory listserve on the Dhamara project of the TATAs and its impact on turtles and their nesting ground in Gahirmatha. Amlan Dutta, who was earlier with Wildlife Institute at Dehradun, is now working with Dhamra Port Company Ltd., and therefore questioning those who claim that the Dhamra Port will be harmful for the turtle rookery at Gahiramatha.

Arribada refers to the mass nesting of turtles

Please read on:

Amlan Dutta wrote:

Dear Members,

We just got the news that the first wave of arribada happened saturday night, and according to forest dept sources 75000 turtles have nested. The details are not very clear but initial reports suggest that nesting happened in Nasi I. 

Last year when arribada didn't happen many voices were raised on dredging of dhamra port having affected turtles, while the truth is average reproductive effort of a female olive ridley is 4 years, i.e. in other words a female turtle comes to nest once only in 4 years, it takes that much time for the egg folicles to develop and make the pan-oceanic trip worthwhile for the females,, while the males do come to mate every year, so if arribada has not happened doesnt mean that the dredging of last year and this year caused some disturbances,, it would have been something which took place 4 years ago, and the fact is arribada didnt take place in many instances since the discovery of arribada in the 1970s ( Bustard, 1976 : Worldâ™s largest sea turtle rookery? Tigerpaper 3: 25) and these years are 1982, 1988, 1997, 1998 and 2002. (Kartik Shanker et. al. Biological Conservation 115 (2003) 149“160) was the dhamra dredging happening then??


The reponse from Sudarshan

Dear Amlan 

I am sorry , but dredging is just one of the things that can have a impact on turtles . They are quite a few others  issues -lighting , oil and cargo spills etc etc. However, more specifically  and importantly - what about the more long term and perhaps permanent impacts such as  erosion/shoreline changes  on the turtles nesting habitat ( or the coastline in general for that matter)  that the port can cause?. This is inevitable in any port -whatever be its design. Both the north and south of the port are sensitive habitat.  Zero impact is a thermodynamic impossibility.

These issues ought to have been studied  in the EIA and a Environment Management plan (EMP) and mitigation options explored within  that.  Please do not tell me the environment management plan is perfect and mitigation is being done! On what basis? An invalid EIA and environmental clearance. The  legal validity of the   EIA/  Environment clearance for Dhamra port  is questionable, and  the clearance in my opinion is  NULL and VOID.

The  clearance / EIA is for the location on kanika sand banks ( an island ) but the Dhamra port is on mainland and is moreover FOUR times the size now ! The table below illustrates it better – its clearly a case of apples and oranges

ISP Ltd( 1997)

Dhamra Port Company Limited

No Fresh EIA or Environment Clearance

On Kanika Sand Banks (9000 acres) Island

1200 acres on main land for port area

5000 acres for industrial park

3000 acres for Rail Road Alignment


EIA discarded mainland option

On Main Land

(4013 acres for port

3000 acres for Rail Road)

14 M depth  7 km long channel

120,000 DWT ships

18 M depth, 18 km channel

180,000 DWT ships

Capacity -25 Million tons per annum

Capacity -83 Million tons per annum

50 million tones of dredging

60 million tonnes of dredging  for phase I alone

2 berths

Phase I- 2 berths

Total 13 berths

 There is a larger issue here as well - there are a total of 14 ports being developed/proposed along the Orrisa coastline of 480 km. That's one every 35 km.!!!1 including the ones at the other two  important nesting sites near Devi and Rushikulya river mouth.

If the "environment due diligence"  track record of the Dhamra Port Company Ltd. (DPCL)   is anything to go by -i.e  one that illustrates an example of how the govt. and a corporate makes a mockery  and of  environment laws and  regulations, one can  only wonder about  the consequences and impacts of the other proposed port projects  following similar footsteps!

One can rest be assured that the individual and cumulative impact of these ports on not just turtles but all coastal and shoreline biodiversity is likely to be devastating.  This will also be the death knell for the livelihoods and settlements of millions of  fisher folk  who habitations and livelihoods are derived from the health of this coastal and marine biodiversity.

For readers who might be interested in the Dhamra port issue please read a the special issue on the Dhamra port at



I am sure that this is going to get a strong reponse from the DPCL spokesman i.e. Amlan Dutta. I have had my own brush with him- I suppose his job with DPCL rests on ensuring effective greenwash.

It is also important to note that not only Amlan, but even IUCN is collaborating with the TATAs in greenwashing the Dhamra Port, which possibly is situated in the most incredibly sensitive location, close to Gahirmatha and next to the Bhittarkanika. I would like to thank Sudarshan for refuting the greenwash effort by Amlan Dutta.

1 comment:

kishan said...

I hope everyone is happy now as the turtles have nested even though the port work is at a full swing.This proves that the port is not affecting the nesting and therefore the construction of the port should be completed.