Tuesday, March 13, 2007

News on Jaigad port and its Environmental impacts

Date:12/03/2007 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2007/03/12/stories/2007031203821300.htm

Work on port unsettles fisherfolk

Meena Menon

A thermal power plant and the port face opposition

— Photo: Vivek Bendre

UNDER THREAT: Jaigad fishing village in Maharashtra.

JAIGAD (Ratnagiri district): The curving blue creek opens out before you on the road to the fishing village of Jaigad. There are several closely clustered villages right on the edge of the creek that depend exclusively on fishing for their livelihood. Niaz Ali Makki has just returned from a long stint in his boat. Fishermen like him are already being affected by surveying activities for the proposed port at Dhamankul close to the village that is being built by JSW Infrastructure and Logistics Limited.

``I saw huge iron rods going into the water for some survey work. We are small fishermen. The waters of the creek have fish right up to the edge of the shore. Once the port comes up, this will vanish,'' fears Makki. The Jaigad Fishermen's Cooperative Society, founded in 1968, has nearly 1,300 members. The fishermen oppose the 1,200 MW coal-based thermal power plant coming up at Nandivde nearby and also the proposed port, which will unload the imported coal.

Hussain Mir Abdul Sansare says the port will affect both small fishermen and the bigger ones with trawlers. The release of the water used by the power plant into the creek will play havoc on the water temperature, he points out. The fish catch here is exported to nearly 24 countries and the local economy centres on it, he added. Fish catch in the Jaigad area has been in the area of 56,430 tonnes in 1997-98 and about 42,364 tonnes in 1999-2000, according to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the project.

Around the creek there are about 9,000 families who depend on fishing. Badruddin Mia Zambarkar says that earlier boats used to travel as far as Dabhol creek, a two-hour boat ride to the north, which was once a prime fishing area. ``Now that the power plant has come there, the fish has all gone,'' he said. Jaigad is one of the finest creeks for marine life on the Konkan coast, say the fisherfolk.

Rashid Umar Dange, another fisherman, says that the company's survey work means that there is some drilling going all day near the proposed port site. Although the locals managed to stop work, it has started again under police protection. He said small fish come to the shallow creek waters to feed and once the creek temperature rises or there is a disturbance, these fish will not come here any more. The local fishermen have refused to help the company. But they are also fatalistic and believe that the port will come up anyway. They also fear that the port could cause flooding as Jaigad village has a small jetty around which water rises up higher in the monsoon.

Raaj Kumar, joint managing director and CEO, JSW Energy Limited, insists that the impact of the plant on marine life will be negligible. The water requirement for the proposed 1,200 MW power plant is 3,74,400 cubic metres a day. Water from the plant would be released into the creek only after it is passed through a cooling tower as suggested by the expert committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

JSW Energy Limited's Environmental Impact Assessment, says P.R. Arun, an environmental scientist, has not quantified the impact on fisheries, mangroves and coral reefs. The fly ash and effluents released into the sea and the creek could spell doom for the fisheries, he said.

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