The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) is set to conduct a public hearing on the proposed expansion of Adani group’s Kattupalli Port in Tiruvallur district. The project, which was initially scheduled for a hearing in January 2021 but was delayed due to COVID-19, has drawn strong opposition from environmentalists and opposition parties. The expansion aims to transform the port into a multipurpose cargo facility with extensive reclamation, triggering concerns about its environmental impact on the Ennore-Pulicat backwaters and the Pulicat lake, one of India’s largest brackish-water ecosystems.
Expansion Plans and Environmental Impact Assessment:
The Adani Group applied for environmental clearance in 2019 to expand the capacity of Kattupalli Port at an estimated cost of ₹53,031 crore. According to the “Proposed Revised Master Plan Development of Kattupalli Port,” the expansion project entails various facilities, including transloading, backup, and independent port craft facilities, waste reception facilities, and conveyor systems. The port’s area is proposed to be expanded from the current 330 acres to a vast 6,111 acres, with nearly 2,000 acres being reclaimed by dumping dredged sand into the sea.
Opposition from Environmentalists and Opposition Parties:
Environmental activists and opposition parties have voiced strong objections to the project. They argue that the expansion will transform the Ennore-Pulicat backwaters into an industrial area, posing a serious threat to the livelihoods of local fishers. Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the potential damage to the Pulicat lake, a vital brackish-water ecosystem in India. Additionally, the expansion could exacerbate coastal erosion in Tiruvallur and impact the Kattupalli barrier island, which plays a critical role in protecting the Pulicat lake. Environmental organizations have expressed concerns that the project could lead to increased flooding in Chennai as it might block the Kosasthalaiyar river, which serves as the city’s largest flood drainage system.
Delayed Public Hearing and Political Promises:
The public hearing, initially scheduled for January 22, 2021, was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions and the contentious nature of the project. Despite promises from the ruling DMK party during the 2021 elections to deny permission for the Adani port expansion if elected to power, the hearing has been announced, leading to criticism from environmental organizations. They are urging Chief Minister M.K. Stalin not to renege on the party’s commitment and reconsider the expansion’s potential consequences.