Explainer: The Rs 135 crore Cuddalore Port expansion project

The state’s Coastal Management Authority recently granted clearance for the project that hopes to enhance the cargo handling capacity of the existing port.
Explainer: The Rs 135 crore Cuddalore Port expansion project
Explainer: The Rs 135 crore Cuddalore Port expansion project
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The Tamil Nadu Maritime Board’s infrastructure project in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu has been granted permission for expansion by the state’s CoastalManagement Zone Authority. While the plans now await a CRZ clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, here are details of the project.

The project, envisaged within the notified limits of the Cuddalore Port, hopes to add two additional berths with multi-cargo handling facilities. The proposed berths will be 120 x 21 m each. The depth at the proposed berth area will be dredged for -10 m. This is set to increase the cargo handling facility of the port from 0.37 to 5.68 metric tonnes per annum. The overall project is estimated to cost Rs 135 crore.

According to the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board, the proposed cargo will be a mix of bulk cargo like coal, cement, fertilizers as well as clean cargo like container cargo. In addition to the berths, the project is aimed at modifications in breakwaters, newer installations for cargo storage and handling, dredging and strategies for disposal of dredged spoil.

While the existing Cuddalore Port is an open anchorage port at the confluence of the Uppanar and Paravanar rivers, the expansion falls under the central government’s Sagarmala scheme for port modernisation and new port development. The government expects that cargo traffic at Indian ports will increase to 2,500 million metric tonnes per annum by the year 2025.

However, the existing port by itself is defunct. According to the project pre-feasibility report, submitted for Environmental Clearance, “The existing Port has become defunct for want of required depth of water spread as the Port has lost the depth to silting in the last two years. Hence, dredging has become important even to operate barges to negotiate the permitted cargo in the Port.”

In February 2015, Cuddalore MP A Arunmozhithevan made a case for the port and its fishing harbour to be granted CRZ permission for desilting work.

In a speech in the Lok Sabha, he said, “For the past several years, desilting work has not been carried out in this Cuddalore Port. Due to this, the fishing boats crash onto the shore and as a result of these mishaps precious lives are lost. In around 50 such accidents, more than 20 fishermen lost their precious lives.”

The report states that the expansion is necessitated by the fact there are “at least three more coastal thermal power plants and one SEZ for Apparel Park in pipeline”.

The expansion project has met with some resistance from fisherman who requested that an area be demarcated for ferry services, small commercial establishments and recreational activities, which would enable additional sources of income for them. However, this request was reportedly turned down since the expansion plans have been made under the guideline of the 2011 notification of the CRZ, as opposed to the Marina where such activities have been in existence prior to the notification.

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