In a sudden announcement ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, the AIADMK government has now said that it will not allow the controversial Kattupalli Port expansion project proposed by Adani Ports in Ennore. Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam who was campaigning for the polls even went on to say that it will be permanently scrapped.
The Deputy CM was campaigning for AIADMK's Ponneri constituency candidate Siruniyam P Balaraman when he made the announcement. "One of the demands of the people here is that the expansion of Adani Kattupalli port should not be carried out. For the sake of fisherfolk here, we will scrap the port expansion project permanently," said O Panneerselvam. "So vote for Balaraman and two leaves symbol," he added.
The Gautam Adani-led Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) is the largest commercial ports operator in India.
As per the December 2020 Kattupalli Port Revised Master Plan, the port is supposed to be expanded to a total area of 2472.85 hectares. Environmentalists have pointed out that this expansion would also cover environmentally sensitive areas that have mangroves and wetlands. Even water bodies within the 15 km radius will fall under this.
This has led to several protests from environmental groups and activists and questions have been raised over how the company got the clearance for the project.
“These (scrapping of projects) are things that other parties have also said that they will not allow the expansion in their manifestos. We just see this as one such other promise. Scrapping such a project requires serious policy planning,” says Pooja Kumar, Program Coordinator of Coastal Resource Centre.
“The Ministry of Environment and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board are already working towards taking the project forward. What OPS has said is a promise made by a political party. This is how we are looking at it. There are several questions that remain. So we can’t go by something said in a politically charged environment,” she adds.
Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman meanwhile points out that the promise was made in Ponneri constituency and under pressure from voters and residents.
“Even if they had made this announcement 20 to 30 days ago, it would have had some validity. Now, when code of conduct is in place, it doesn’t make a difference,” he says. “This assurance doesn’t even feature in their manifesto.”