Tata Port Development Threatens Olive Ridley Sea Turtles (Orissa, India)
Letters are needed to help stop destructive development of Dhamra Port Facility (29 June 2007) Greenpeace-India
29 June 2007
YOUR LETTERS ARE NEEDED TO HELP STOP DESTRUCTIVE DEVELOPMENT OF DHAMRA PORT FACILITY IN ORISSA
Tata Port Development Threatens Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
Background of the Dhamra Port issue
Dhamra port is now being built in proximity to the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, on the northern coast of Orissa, India. Gahirmatha is the world's largest remaining nesting ground for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, a species classified as Endangered by the IUCN. Between 200,000 and 500,000 female turtles nest here every year, in spectacular arribadas (mass nesting). The planned port facility will be located just north of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and less than five kilometres from the boundaries of the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, which itself contains an abundance of rare wildlife species and an amazingly lush and biodiverse mangrove forest ecosystem, all of which are threatened by this port development scheme .
The port is being built by Tata Steel via the Dhamra Port Company Limited, a 50:50 joint venture between Tata Steel and Larsen & Toubro. Dhamra is proposed to be a deep water port, one of the largest in South Asia, capable of handling 180,000 DWT ships and 83 million tonnes per annum in ten years. The channel depth at the port would be 18 metres which could accommodate Capesize vessels. The proposed port at Dhamra is to be developed over an area of nearly 1,000 acres (405 ha.), and another 3,000 acres (1,214 ha) are being acquired for other project-related development activities. The proposed investment is approximately US $ 500 million.
The port and its attendant infrastructure, accompanying industrial and residential development, artificial lighting and the shipping traffic it will attract are only some of the problems it poses for the turtles and their hatchlings. A serious threat will also be posed by the amount of dredging required to create and maintain the shipping channels at the necessary depth (over 60 million cu. m. of capital dredging initially and a further 2.2 million cu.m. of maintenance dredging annually). The development of the port will also lead to an industrialisation spree in the area, with the attendant hazards posed by an increased population, lighting, pollution etc. While the Dhamra port site itself is not a nesting ground, the coastal waters are turtle habitat and there are many reports of turtle sightings in the area during the turtle season (November to May) each year. Obviously, such large turtle congregations depend on the natural food chain and ecology of the area to sustain themselves.
Another issue is the probable impact on livelihoods of thousands of fishermen in the region, as the construction of the port and dredging in particular could result in the destruction and pollution of breeding and spawning grounds of fish, besides leading to a situation where the fisherfolk cannot fish in their own local areas.
The location of the port also runs contrary to a 2002 directive of the Ministry of Environment, based on the government of India's National Wildlife Action Plan, that a radius of 10 km. from all existing parks and sanctuaries be declared 'eco-sensitive areas' and large-scale industrial development be kept away from these areas. Additionally, the central government's own guidelines for industries ask that they be located at least 25 km. away from ecologically sensitive areas.
There are two ongoing legal issues pertaining to Dhamra. The first, a petition filed by the Wildlife Society of Orissa in the Orissa High Court, pending since 2000. The other is a petition filed before the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court that is yet to come up for hearing. Further, in its 2004 report, the CEC had recommended that the port be shifted to an alternative site due to its proximity to the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and the turtle nesting ground.
The project's main proponents are now Tata Steel, part of the Tata Group, one of India's largest industrial houses. Larsen and Toubro signed an agreement in October 2004 for the construction of the Dhamra port with Tata Steel. The Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) is the main funding agency supporting the Dhamra project.
Critique of the Dhamra Environment Impact Assessment
The only Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared for the project was in 1997, and it has been exposed as fundamentally flawed, as it lacks any analysis of impacts on turtles, port site ecology, hazard analysis and emergency plan.
Greenpeace's scientific critique of the EIA reinforces the need for the assessment to be repeated and reworked
Biodiversity Assessment Study of the port site and surrounding area
On June 8, 2007, Greenpeace released a scientific report prepared by the North Orissa University, that unequivocally establishes presence of turtles in the offshore waters off the port site area. The study makes the case that there is need for abundant caution, besides highlighting the significance of the Dhamra mud-flat area as an ecosystem and all that it sustains. TATAs have always maintained that they will reconsider the port, if the evidence of turtles in the area is established. In addition, there are other significant findings, such as that the mudflats (actual port site) are a mating and nesting ground for Horseshoe crabs. Additionally, a rare species of frog F. cancrivora (never before recorded in mainland India) and a species of snake recorded only once before on
the Indian mainland have also been discovered in this area. On the basis of these findings, a coalition of groups are calling on the company to walk the talk, and keep their commitments. Incidentally TATA Steel is a member in the Global compact, which binds them to the precautionary principle, rather than adopting a position of mitigating impacts.
TATA Steel is now one of the largest steel producers in the world, following its acquisition of the British group Corus a few months ago. The TATA group is also growing in Europe with its software consulting arm, Tata Consultancy Services, aside from Tata Motors and other smaller companies. The company has refused to re-examine its plans, while continuing to maintain that they will not harm the environment or an endangered species, without responding to either the specific concerns that are being raised or new evidence presented.
Press releases tracing recent developments in the campaign
TATA'S Dhamra port EIA seriously flawed, project must not go ahead: Greenpeace
Critique report (pdf, 15p, 222KB)
Evidence of turtles, rare species at Dhamra: TATA must drop port says
Biodiversity report (pdf, 40p, 2MB)
Ratan Tata, Kya Hua Tera Vaada?
Greenpeace asks TATAs to "Take a turtle-friendly look at life"
Turtles Invade Taj Land's End, seek new home
June 29, 2007
I am writing to bring to your attention an issue that concerns the reputation of the TATA group internationally. The TATAs' plan to build a mega port at Dhamra on the Orissa coast of India, in the turtle mating and feeding grounds, is shocking, particularly for a company that seems to pride itself on its benign, philanthropic and environment friendly image.
The area has been proven to be inhabited by significant numbers of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles in the offshore waters. The mass nesting beaches of Gahirmatha less than 15 km. away, are the world's largest mass nesting beaches for the Olive Ridley turtle and I am sure that you will appreciate the international importance of this area for marine turtle conservation. The Bhitarkanika Sanctuary is just about 5 km. away from the port site. Horseshoe crabs and rare frogs and snakes have been recorded from the port area as well. It is impossible for a large project of this sort to come up in an ecologically significant area and yet have no impacts on the environment and the species it holds.
As a respected household name in India, and one of India's fast growing groups internationally, particularly with your acquisition of Corus Steel, and as a member in the Global compact, which binds you to the precautionary principle, I urge you in the interests of the seaturtles, and to protect TATAs own public image, to immediately drop plans to build a port here and instead be proactive in working with the Orissa government to ensure the area is protected from other corporations that might not have the good conscience that you do.
In anticipation of a prompt response,
Mr. R. Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director, Tata Sons, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Arun R. Gandhi, Executive Director Tata Sons email@example.com
Mr. Alan Rosling, Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Jamshed J. Irani email@example.com
Mr. B. Muthuraman, Managing Director, Tata Steel firstname.lastname@example.org
Postal address for all of the above Tata officials:
24, Homi Mody Street,
Mumbai 400 001
Tel: +91 22 6665 8282
Fax: +91 22 6665 8143 and 44
Chairman & Managing Director
Larsen & Toubro Limited
L&T House, Ballard Estate
Mumbai 400 001, India
Dr. Hrusikesh Panda, IAS
Department of Forest and Wildlife
The Secretariat, Govt of Orissa
Tel: +91 674 232 2947 / 253 6822
For More Information, Please Comtact, Ashish Fernandes of Greenpeace, India