Undue process

  • 14/05/2007

Puducherry port defies ecology, economics



On October 18, 2004, the Puducherry government issued an advertisement inviting consultants to undertake a feasibility study for the construction of a new port. The advertisement read: "The notice is issued only to elicit an eoi (expression of interest) in undertaking a feasibility study for Pondicherry Port development and does not constitute a binding commitment from the government of Puducherry to any or all firms in the subsequent selection process.'

Down To Earth has examined the process of awarding the project through documents in its possession. Tendering procedures seemed to have been followed more in the breach than their observance. This was, perhaps, unsurprising, given the cavalier manner in which established environmental regulations were dumped and the land acquisition process handled.

Coast unclear
Port development is not constrained by the coastal regulation zone (crz) notification of 1991, amended in 2001. So any development activity can be camouflaged under that rubric. Among other things, crz rules prohibit any form of land reclamation for commercial activity including developing housing and commercial complexes, shopping malls, hotels and multiplexes. In Puducherry, the promoters calls these "permitted activity', essential to make the project financially viable. The concession agreement says "permitted activity means all activities that is permissible within the site and shall include development of land for residential, commercial, recreation, tourism purposes and any allied or incidental activities'. The eia report says that an entertainment/recreational centre and three and four star hotels are planned as part of the port project. The detailed project report says a hotel, offering facilities for water sports, and villas and apartments could be developed (see box: Developers' defence).

The crz notification says changes of landscape should be prohibited.timeline The National Institute of Port Management (nipm), Mamalapuram, which was appointed by the Pondicherry government on August 4, 2005, as a consultant for port development, submitted a report that disagreed with the detailed project report about whether "permitted activities' could actually be allowed under crz rules. The report said: "As this area is coming under the crz, the proposed development activity which falls within 500 metres of restricted zone may not be possible on environmental considerations.' crzs are classified into four categories. The three documents relevant to the development of the port

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