Tata Threatening The Turtles

The coast of Orissa is known for the birds, the beast and especially for the Olive Ridley turtles. With the biodiversity it supports, it can easily pass for a fragile ecosystem that needs protection. Bhitarkanika sanctuary and Gahirmatha beaches are already listed as reserved and restricted areas, in fact the beaches at Gahirmatha are of global importance because they are one of the last nesting places of the Olive Ridley turtles.

Orissa, apart from being an ecologically sensitive, is also one of the richest in terms of mineral wealth. 70 per cent of India’s total bauxite deposits as well as 25 per cent of the total coal deposits is found in Orissa. For the economical betterment of the State as well as the Country, it is important to make use of these minerals but at the same time it is also important not to do so at the cost of its delicate ecosystem.

Considering the sensitivities involved in this particular ecosystem, building a port right in the middle of two sanctuaries is a tad insensitive and full of long-term consequences.

The proposed expansion of Dhamra port project is by no means a simple expansion. It proposes to expand a 300 mechanized vessels capacity fishing port to about a capacity of handling vessels up to 180,000 deadweight tones, making the facility as the deepest water port in India. The traffic potential would be based on the exploitation of inland resources like the shipping of steel, cooking coal and the Port could also serve as import point for crude oil. The project is being handled by DPCL (Dhamra Port Company Limited), which is a 50:50 joint venture between L&T and Tata.

The controversial port project, which has been criticized by many NGOs, was recently challenged by Greenpeace. TATA claimed that the site where the port is being built was not a turtle habitat as well as it did not pose a threat to the ecosystem there. Greenpeace released their study which not only claimed turtle activity but also claimed to have discovered a rare Crab-eating frog – a first record from mainland India and

The White-bellied mangrove snake which was only once reported before and that too from Sunderbans.

With reference to Greenpeace’s report, the Tata’s have yet to respond. However they had earlier reported that if turtle activity near the proposed site was proved then they would reconsider the project.

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