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Environment report on Vizhinjam Port by month-end: CEO - 2013-05-23

Amid a fresh grievance filed at IFC against the much-delayed Vizhinjam project, the head of the proposed port said the complaint will have no material impact as the Rs 4,000-crore port is bound by a 2006 central government order. "We are bound by the 2006 order of the Union government. Once we get environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, which will be submitted by the end of this month, anybody with any complaint can appear at the mandatory public hearing and present their cases," Vizhinjam International Seaport Chief Executive Suresh Babu told PTI.

He was responding to the latest complaint filed at the World Bank arm IFC's Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) which said it is assessing a new complaint from nearby villagers from Mulloor alleging that a proposed road connecting the multi-purpose port will adversely impact their water source and farm land. Babu further said if at all there is any complaint against the proposed road, it would be taken up at the public hearing, which will be conducted after a month of the state pollution control board receiving the EIA report and then calling for public hearing.

It can be noted that International Finance Corp (IFC) is the transaction advisor to the Vizhinjam port and is also managing about USD 1.6 million in trust funds for the project. IFC's role in the project is to help in structuring and implementing the project.

There are three complaints at IFC. Last August, another complaint had raised concerns about the detrimental impact of the project on tourism and 11 fishing communities situated along nearby coast. Local fishing communities, tourism workers/ businesses and local residents had filed that complaint last year. They were supported by the Kerala branch of Exnora International, the Kerala Hotels and Restaurants Association, and the People's Resistance Committee in Vizhinjam.

The CAO reviews complaints from communities in which the World Bank Group's two private sector lending arms, IFC and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency are involved with. The CAO said it has accepted a new complaint from local communities regarding the port development.

Last month, Kerala ports principal secretary James Varghese had said that the EIA report was almost ready after which they would have public hearing held, which would take four-five months and that the project should start by the end of the year or early 2014. It can be noted that the environmental impact assessment report was to be in place last June, which was delayed to last November.

On the depth of the three-phased Vizhinjam International Seaport, and the port has decided to increase the channel draft to 20 metres from the earlier plan for a 16 metre which will help it accommodate vessels carrying up to 18,000 TEUs or standard container units.

The port, situated only 10 nautical miles from the international shipping route, is primarily looking to attract trans-shipment traffic. The port will have two terminals to start with and has plans to add two more in the future.

Source: The Economic Times