An alternative to the Enayam project, the Keelamanakudi port too threatens to destroy livelihoods.

TN fisherfolk say no to sea port at eco-sensitive Keelamanakudi
news Environment Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - 18:46

The fisherfolk of Kanyakumari have petitioned the Environment Directorate to stop the development of a new container trans-shipment port at Keelamankudi, between Kovalam in Kerala and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. Calling the area eco-sensitive, they petitioned the Directorate against construction of the gateway port.

According to the VOC Trust, the nodal agency which runs the project, “It has been decided to prepare the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for development of a major port at the new site as an alternative to Enayam.”

The Enayam port project was to cover the area between Kurumpanai to Thengapattinam in Kanyakumari, threatening to destroy homes, religious places, agricultural land, waters for fishing and making drastic changes to the local coastal landscape, affecting over 40,000 people.

According to The Hindu, representatives of fisherfolks’ welfare organisations said that there would be a loss to the naturally forming sand-dunes, mangroves and salt pans if the project went ahead. On January 8, according to a TOI report, the district collector, Sajjan Singh Chavan tried convincing villagers in the area by inviting them to a meeting which saw a representation of less than 20 people from the coastal villages which would be affected by the port.

Along with the estuary, there are also salt pans in the area, making salt farming a major occupation. Speaking to TNM, Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre said, “Ecologically, the Coastal Resource Management has declared the area in the upcoming report as CRZ-I which is ecologically sensitive. It’s been marked so because of the presence of sand dunes and salt pans and estuary in that stretch. The port facilities will extend beyond the reclaimed land to the coastland itself. Areas used by the fishermen for customary livelihood uses are being taken away.”

A report by Tamil Nadu’s Department of Environment titled ‘Coastal District Profiles’ highlights the ecological sensitivity of the area, noting, “There is a well-established mangrove forest in one of the mud flats of the Manakudi estuary.”

Speaking to the Hindu Business Line, I Jeyakumar, Chairperson of the VO Chidambaranar Port Trust had said that the change of location from Enayam to Keelamanakudi will be done only after due approval from the government. Claiming that there were fishing villages in the area, also said, “There will be zero displacement; nobody will be disturbed. Besides, no land acquisition is envisaged for port construction.”

With the National Green Tribunal, the sole environmentval arbitrator in the country being grossly understaffed, it remains to be seen how the matter would be resolved keeping in mind the livelihoods of the fisherfolk.