Environmental Protection Group Orissa: A non-funded network
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:
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
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 depth7 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 dredgingfor phase Ialone
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 twoimportant 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 mockeryand 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.