The state government’s grand plan to develop ports and the waterfront on its 720-km long coastline will be delayed as it will first have to get the environmental sanctions from the Centre.
Recently, the government had unveiled a Rs 20,000-crore plan to develop 58 commercial ports and jetties, a marina in Mumbai and 29 spots for water sports.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has stipulated guidelines for the expansion of existing ports and new projects along the coast. According to the guidelines, for expansion activities at existing ports a hydrodynamic impact study must be conducted, and for new projects, a three-season comprehensive environment impact assessment has to be done.
“We will conduct all environment studies before we go ahead with any project and meeting all MoEF requirements. In case of jetties, which we will be developing on private-public partnership, it will be the duty of the developer to get all the clearances,” said Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, ports minister.
The central environment ministry had gone a step ahead and identified Mumbai suburban, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg as areas where critical soil erosion was observed — it was mentioned in a memorandum released in November 2009.
For several coastal stretches along Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, which are biodiversity hotspots prone to erosion above 1 m per year, no projects will be allowed within 10 km on either side of such eco-sensitive zones.
The state vision document enlists developing 58 commercial ports, jetties and shipyards on a private-public partnership basis — about 15 of which have already taken off.
It also plans to develop 26 state shipyards for ship repair.
In addition to commercial exploitation of ports, the ministry also plans to set up a marina — a waterfront complex —in Mumbai for which it has invited tenders to appoint planning consultants in September 2009.
However, no environmental clearances have been sought for any of these yet.
“We will make sure that economics goes hand in hand with environment and none of the port expansion works causes any hinderance to that,” said Vikhe Patil.