Posted by: John Elliott | May 29, 2008

Greenpeace targets Tata over rare sea turtles

India’s Tata is running into trouble with Greenpeace and other environmental groups. Environmentalists accuse Tata – which has recently made world headlines with reports about its takeover of Jaguar and Land-Rover cars, and the creation of its tiny Nano car – of causing harm to rare sea turtles off India’s east coast.

The groups claim that Tata began construction of a new port at Dhamra in the state of Orissa without obtaining proper environmental clearances and without honoring commitments made by Ratan Tata, the company’s chairman, to take care of the environmental problems before the project was started.

After weeks of silence, Dhamra Port Company Ltd (DPCL), a 50-50 joint venture between Tata Steel and Larsen & Toubro (L&T), an Indian construction company, rebutted the accusations at a press conference earlier this week. But this does not seem to have stemmed the tide of criticism and it looks as if Tata’s generally good international image as one of India’s most caring and responsible business houses will suffer.

Dhamra is a small ancient port, which the government wants to develop with a $600 million project so that it can handle large deep-draft ships that are needed to serve mineral-rich areas of Orissa and two other nearby states, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

The environmental dispute has been building up for several years because the site is less than five kilometers from India’s second largest mangrove forest. More importantly, it is less than 15 kms north of one of the world’s largest mass nesting grounds used by literally thousands of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles every year. At night, the turtles crawl out of the sea up sandy beaches where they dig holes to hide their eggs before disappearing back into the sea.

The Orissa coastline

Environmentalists agree with the company that the port is not located in a nesting area, but claim that the turtles forage and mate in waters near the port site and the Dhamra river mouth, and thatthey will be killed by dredging and shipping. This has been supported by various international experts and by a specialist committee appointed by India’s supreme court which said four years ago that the project would “seriously impact” the nesting.

Santosh Mohapatra, DPCL’s CEO, told me earlier this week that some turtles might go close to the port site, but that all the turtles come from the south and that the vast majority will not go anywhere near the port and its ships. The environmentalists have also claimed that the turtles will be scared away by the port’s bright lights. On that, Mohapatra says his company is testing non-glare lighting and will, if necessary, turn the lights off in the nesting season for ten to 15 days a year.

But the environmentalists are not satisfied. Greenpeace says that more than 70,000 people have signed internet-generated letters of protest to Ratan Tata. Last week volunteers lit thousands of candles in a vigil outside his Mumbai home.

It looks like an impasse because DPCL says 20% of the construction work has been done. It is clear that there is no chance of it abandoning the site. The environmentalists seem however to have some of their facts wrong, now that Greenpeace has moved in on a subject that was being handled by Indian wildlife groups, led by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and the Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO). They claimed that BNP Paribas bank cancelled a planned loan (which I gather was for about $125 million) because of the row, whereas Mohapatra says the loan has been suspended because it would exceed limits allowed by India’s foreign currency regulations.

Tata has been caught up in other development and environmental controversies, and not all, it has to be said, of its own making. Tribal people have clashed with police at a site in Orissa where it is building a steel plant and there has been continuing and sometimes violent unrest since last year at Singur in West Bengal where it wants to build a factory to make its Nano car. It has also been accused of causing poisoning from chromate mines at Sukhinda, also in Orissa, and a pesticides plant in Andhra Pradesh was criticized four years ago for dumping toxic waste.

It is probably inevitable that a group as big and diversified as Tata will have some such difficulties, but the problem for it now is that they are likely to be highlighted if it does not break the Dhamra deadlock and work out a solution that will allow the port to be built while protecting the turtles.

India has an extremely rich wildlife heritage ranging from tigers to turtles, and both government and industry need to find ways of working with those who want to protect the best of that heritage, preferably before professional international protestors such as Greenpeace move in.


  1. Well One I will agree TATA doesn’t pull stunts for publicity positive or negative. They are a Responsible organisation and commited to the envionment. They are building the port in Dhamra which will be a pride for India for it will be of international standards and life abroad will co-exisit with the turtles

    The address supplied with this comment (and a subsequent comment) is not contactable, so I will be deleting this comment unless the sender contacts me with a valid address – je

  2. Earlier i have little idea about work of Medha Patekar,Greenpeace etc.How they work,how they plan and how they handle legal issues.But something is clear about the goal,they try to save the home whether its turtle or human being.In the name of Growth….Everything have been ignored,the right of a safe home,the right of safe environment and above all fundamental rights of freedom of expression.One cann’t compare international ports or construction with Indian standards.Here in India every safety and standard norms are ignored ,violated.More irony the department related to environment are more keen to clear a project than to examine it in terms of international standards.Great human tragedy still to remember is Bhopal gas issue,which became a forgotten story,no example could be set out of it.Whether it is a question of home,land,environment or safe planet, issues remain same.These are isuues of a home,a safe living,no matter for a turtle or human being. Really the industrialisation and so called growth making the nation forward looking or making more bigger land shark under whom no turtle can be safe.

  3. I am quite happy to note that this site have made lot of people aware about the facts of Dhamra Port and bogus notes of Greenpeace, India. It seems Greenpeace is in a frenzy to stop the contstruction of Dhamra port by hook or crrok. Otherwise a organisation like Greenpeace, India would have not have dared to modify reports of North Orissa University. I only hope that Central Greenpeace organisation is aware of this type of activities of Greenpeace, India. There are several examples in US, Mexico and Australia wherein port and turtles have co-existed togethor. Even some of the ports in Mexico is having turtle nesting area, whereas in Dhamra the turtle nesting area is more than 30 kms away. Does Greenpeace, India and others have answers to it ?

  4. Regarding Dredging :

    Dredging and Lighting have also been one of the key concerns of IUCN.

    a) Dredging : Dredging would be disturbing the benthic flora and fauna , which will have an effect on the food chain of the turtles, how will you address that?

    Answer –

    The Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary with an area of 1400 sq km is earmarked for the precise reason that the flora and fauna of this area is not disturbed. Our port site, which is outside the sanctuary is at least 15 km north of the northern most boundary of the marine sanctuary and our channel which is being dredged is further to the north up to another 18 kms which means that if you have to include our port and channel in the area of impact, even for argument sake, you have to extend the area by another 2000 sq kms in addition to the sanctuary area. This can be shown on a map. The total area being dredged is a 200 to 250 mt wide channel of 18 km which is about 10 sq kms, or about .003 % of the total area for the sake of argument.

    Our EIA studies had studied the baseline scenarios of the area with reference to the permissible limits and precisely for this reason, we have engaged the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (formerly known as the Regional Research Laboratories) a premier establishment of the CSIR ( ) for monitoring all our environmental parameters including turbidity of waters, air pollution, dust pollution etc, they are also regularly recording the primary productivity of the port waters a direct indicator of robustness of the food chain.

  5. Dear Bittu S’b,
    Yes by the time the log jam had happened, you had indeed stated that. But wont you agree that in the meetings held in the Hornbill house you too had wanted these studies done, in fact the minutes of the meetings are with me and you were interested in tagging 150 turtles with satellite telemeters. But both WWF and BNHS didnt / couldnt do the studies, both BNHS and WWF had done prelim studies for the study to be done, work was also stopped for the period of the proposed study. Time passed and the project was revived , now dont you think it is unfair to demand the relocation of the port,

  6. Dear Pooja Pradhan,

    I’ve been sitting here in Mumbai looking at what once was all beach and palm trees replaced by 20-30 (now 60) multi-storey concrete towers.

    The sea waters are black with oil and various toxic chemicals and waste.

    The mangroves have been cut to a fraction of what they were.

    The Sanjay Gandhi National Park has been encroached by builders and the leopards are slaughtered because the animals ‘encroach’ into peoples compounds.

    The fishermen also have to go deep sea to get fish because there are none off the coast.

    A lot of people die because they breath the air here.

    I agree with you. We in Mumbai are also still conserving our forests and wild life (on paper) while we also have local prosperity (in terms of lovely money).

    As a side note, we’ll have less ‘foreigners’ from ‘Mother’ Orissa and such backward places putting up slums in Mumbai, in ‘Mother’ Maharashtra, and taking away our jobs.

    I guess it was never really ‘Mother India’?

    When do you plan for a free independent Orissa?

    And also thanks for making it clear that all Oriyans, if not all humans think first of ‘God’s other creatures’, before other humans, and lastly think of themselves. That’s why we are the most dominant species right now…through love and peace.

    Thanks for making it clear.

    Mr. Bittu Sahgal, I think we should just enjoy our air-conditioners, for lack of enjoying the fresh air and leave Orissa and its ‘internal matters’ up to the Orissans.

  7. Dear Mr. Bittu Sahgal
    ,We would like to know, why you have backed out from conducting the study about the impact of Dhamara port( at the existing site) on the turtles? Is it under pressure from Greenpiece India, From the Port mafia ( as other ports like Haladia, are going to be affected adversely, if Dhamara becomes operational).your strong advise would have been even more stronger, if it would have come after a through scientific study. Please do not comment about the port activity, sitting at you’re a/c editorial room at Mumbai.( or Delhi, wherever it may be). This port will open up the path of prosperity for the local people. We are well aware of the importance of conservation of this unique turtles and will do everything possible to safeguard their future. At the same time we will also not allow the sinister designs of foreign agencies, and Mir Kasims (Battle of Pallasi) like you to jeopardize the economic development of mother Orissa. Just don’t oppose a project , suggest some ways, so as to have both development and environment conservation side by side.

  8. The perception created by Greenpeace and other so called protector of Olive Riddley is totally misleading and incorrect. The upcoming larger Dhamra port is far away from the northen most nesting location, which is at Gahirmatha. Till date Greenpeace, India and other persons/ NGOs should give us an account what they have done physically for saving the turtles in the locality apart from writing mails, modifying reports and creating animosity amongst fisherman. It is such a disgust that people siting miles away from the locations are giving expert comments without even looking at the ground

  9. As someone who initially signed onto a Greenpeace cyber campaign, I am very confused now.

    Checking on the comments by Nayak and others, supposed locals, I
    came across links on the Greenpeace site – a denial to the
    allegations on report tampering and ‘evidence’ of involvement of
    Dhamra Port Company Limited (DPCL) in authoring and circulating
    anonymous notes to the media, of Greenpeace having tampered
    with a Orissa University Report.
    This was in 2007 if I have understood right and not in the current

    I have just got to know that the IUCN is involved on this project, and advising the company on minimising damage from the port. That is great, given that they are one of the premier conservation and scientific organizations, with much needed expertise on this issue. Did the IUCN
    approve of the construction of the port in this area before work
    started or rather are the IUCN in favour of the current location of the port? Am happy to know that the Tata’s with the IUCN are taking care of all concerns so that there is no damage to this area even from other proposed projects, one of them which I came across was some proposed ship yard as reported in the Stateman recently.

  10. Amlan Datta commented that I was called in to help clear the log jam on the Dhamra Port. What he forgot to mention was that I strongly advised Tata Steel to locate its port at another site of their choosing because the humungous amount of capital and maintenance dredging that the Dhamra Port would entail would seriously affect the benthic flora and fauna of the seas off the coast and that the currents would carry this clay-silt far from the dredging sites, effectively degrading the feeding grounds upon which a million Olive Ridley Turtles have been using since before humans evolved. I also pointed out that the gauntlet that marine turtles had to run was already deadly, with perhaps one in a thousand hatchlings surviving to mate and reproduce. They need human protection, not additional burdens placed on them by our economic ambitions.

    Even without new ports and increased pollution, climate change seriously threatens the food web of marine turtles. After the turtles die the traditional “thousand apologies” that India and Indians are so famous for offering will do the turtles little good.

  11. Bhubaneswar, July 1: Greenpeace, the global organisation on working for environment protection, on Sunday faced charges of tampering with a report of North Orissa University and disseminating “wrong” information about a major port project coming up in the Orissa coast.
    “It has come to our notice that Greenpeace India has placed in its website a report under the title Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra Port and Surrounding Areas, Orissa. The cover page of the report says that the report has been prepared by North Orissa University. It would like to clarify that no report under the above mentioned title has been prepared by the North Orissa University,” vice-chancellor of the university, Sudarsan Nanda, told reporters here.
    Mr Nanda said the university had prepared a report titled Rapid Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra Estuary, Orissa-India funded by Greenpeace. However, the contents the Greenpeace are totally different from the one submitted by the university.
    “A comparison of the Greenpeace report as it appears in their website and the report of North Orissa University reveals that Greenpeace India has doctored the authentic report of the university by way of changing the title and contents for motive best known to them,” Mr Nanda said.
    Professor Sushil Kumar Dutta, who conducted the assessment study as principal investigator, said the impact of Dhamra Port on the environment and biodiversity of Dhamra estuary was not included with the scope of the study.
    “It was just an inventory study. However, to my surprise the Greenpeace India has drawn its own conclusion on the impact of the Dhamra Port on the biodiversity of Dhamra estuary,” Mr Sushil Kumar Dutta said.

  12. Greenpeace India has come under heavy criticism from NGOs involved in developmental activities in the region. Sradhanjali, an NGO working in the locality has condemned Greenpeace for running a misinformation campaign in this regard. This is the second time that Greenpeace has faced flack from the locals in last one year. While local residents protested against the organization, local NGOs are now condemning its action.

    In a press release Sradhanjali said “Olive Ridley turtles nest on sandy beaches as they need soft sand to dig holes for laying eggs, where as the beach north of Dhamra River is silted and muddy beach, which is unsuitable for habitation and nesting of turtles.” The NGO has also said that the Gahirmatha nesting location is more than 30 km through the coastal sea route from the upcoming Dhamra port. Even two major rivers namely Mahipura and Dhamra separate the Gahirmatha and upcoming Dhamra Port . There are a lot of landmasses between the two locations including Kanika islands. These obstacles result in turtles never to cross the Mahipura River, the NGO said adding that the sanctuary limit around Gahirmatha is south of DRDO and the Dhamra Port is north of DRDO.

    “Although Paradip Port is on the way of Olive Ridley travel path to Gahirmatha, Dhamra port limits is no way related to Olive Ridley turtles nesting and traverse path,” Sradhanjali said. It has also said that that Greenpeace, India have forged the report of North Orissa University to show that turtles are present in Dhamra area, which has been brought to the notice of the public by North Orissa University.

    In July last year, Greenpeace has seen hundreds of natives from Chandbali area demanded that the NGO should go back and not interfere in its progress as ministry of Enviornment and Forest has already given its green signal. According to them, port mafia who don’t want Dhamra to come up since it may have a bearing on other port such as Haldia. They have also demanded strong action against Greenpeace.

    Greenpeace India had also run in to rough water while attempting to contest the North Orissa University’s charges of doctoring the original report on Rapid Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra Estuary. The organization struggled at the media conference with non-violent radical agitations by the local people. Even the Orissa assembly passed an resolution against Greenpeace, India for forging the report of North Orissa University and running an misinformation campaign on Dhamra port.

  13. From my personal experience in dealing with Greenpeace, they are one of the most manipulative guys around. Anything & everything will be twisted to suit thier purpose.

  14. … after expose of mutilations in original eco study reportGreenpeace is on the defensive over its campaign against the Dhamra Port project in Orissa, being accused of intellectual dishonesty for distorting a study report on the biodiversity of the Dhamra estuary. The North Orissa University (NOU), which was commissioned by the well-known NGO to find out if the port project would threaten the biodiversity of the area, has itself denied that the report published in the Greenpeace website and described as “prepared by the NOU” is not the one the university had sent to Greenpeace.

    Greenpeace was even charged with forgery and fraud by certain organisations which staged demonstrations against it outside the hotel where the NGO was holding a news conference on Thursday trying to defend its position. In fact, there are valid grounds for questioning the Greenpeace for the substantial differences one comes across between the original NOU report and the one publicised by the NGO.

    It may be pointed out here that the main thrust Greenpeace has been giving in its anti-Dhamra Port campaign is on the protection of Olive Ridley sea turtles, even if the project authorities have been quoting several study reports to deny that the area earmarked for the major port is not the breeding and nesting ground of the turtles. The NOU report virtually upholds the project authorities’ stand when it says, “A total of nine trips were made (by the university’s investigators) for offshore study during the study period. Though no sea turtles have been sighted, herds of dolphins were sighted off north Udabali island.” But the report published by Greenpeace on this point is substantially different as it reads, “A total of nine trips were made to the sea. No live turtles were sighted, possibly because it was past the peak congregation season (for the turtles), which is November to January.”

    Greenpeace is now accused of having altered the original report to suit its own purpose because of the well-observed fact that the turtles’ peak season does not end in January. The turtles’ nesting during the last two years took place in Gahirmatha, south of Dhamra, in February and March, the period when the NOU study was undertaken. The original NOU report, therefore, does not ascribe any reason to the non-sighting of the turtles whereas the Greenpeace report does.

    Similar is the “mutilation” in the Greenpeace-published report in respect of the sighting of dead turtles. The NOU study, referring to a count of about 2,000 dead turtles, observes, “It is quite obvious that the turtles died in the sea and were washed away to the Dhamra side because of the northward wind, and (the) record of such a high number of fresh carcasses during the study period indicates congregation of turtles not far away from Dhamra river mouth.”

    According to knowledgeable quarters, if one puts “northward wind” and “not far away from Dhamra river mouth” together, it would mean that the place of origin of the dead turtles was south of the Dhamra mouth. But the Greenpeace report deletes the entire original sentence and, instead, says, “While some of these turtles would have been killed in Gahirmatha, many carcasses would be of (the) killed in the off-shore waters north of the river mouth and north of Kanika Sands, that is off the port site.” If one looks at the breakup of the locations of the carcasses, a majority of them (1,359 out of 2,000) were found in the Kanika Sands itself ad not north of it as Kanika Sands is not the port site.

    Among some other totally new additions to the NOU report, the Greenpeace report contains a paragraph claiming existence of corals off the Dhamra coast and hyping it as “potentially a very exciting discovery.”

  15. From Ashish Fernandes, Greenpeace India

    With regard to the reference to the BNP Paribas withdrawal from the Dhamra port project, the following clarifications are necessary:

    1. Via a letter dated January 3, 2008, Jean Favarel of the Sustainable Development division at BNP Paribas (BNPP) confirmed to Greenpeace that the bank was considering refinancing a portion of the project, subject to a satisfactory screening of the environmental and social impacts of the project that is of international standards. (A Tata Steel press release in 2007 had mentioned BNP’s involvement in ‘ECA funding’ for the project). Further, in the same letter, BNPP confirmed that they had already engaged an independent consultant to carry out this screening. They very clearly stated that their involvement was subject to a proper screening of environmental and social impacts. Greenpeace conveyed its concerns about the project and the manner in which it was proceeding (construction had started at this time). Greenpeace informed BNPP that its involvement in a project of this nature would not be in keeping with the Precautionary Approach. As signatories to the Global Compact, both BNPP and Tata Steel are obliged to adhere to the Precautionary Approach.

    2. Following this, Greenpeace received, on April 30, 2008, an e-mail intimation from the Sustainable Development wing of BNPP which stated that the bank was no longer involved in the Dhamra project.

    BNP Paribas was clearly considering involvement in the project seriously as of January 2008, given that they had engaged an independent consultant to look into the project’s impacts. It is highly unlikely that the bank would have been considering extending a loan that did not meet RBI guidelines, and further, since the said guidelines only fix a ceiling on the loan amount, this would logically require an adjustment of the loan amount rather than a complete withdrawal of financing.

    By April 30, 2008, BNPP had clearly decided that they would not be involved with this project. The fact that BNPP had earlier stated clearly that its involvement would be contingent on a satisfactory screening of environmental and social impacts is telling.

    Mr. Dutta’s / DPCL’s attempt to pass of the current construction at Dhamra as part of the ancient Dhamra port / a part Orissa’s ancient maritime legacy are ludicrously dishonest. Satellite photos will clearly show that prior to the current construction, there was no port infrastructure or construction at the site where the port is now being built. Even the tiny fishing jetty at Dhamra town is far from the current port site. The ancient port being referred to by Mr. Dutta is the Dhamra-Chandbali port, which was situated much further inland, up the Dhamra river, whereas the current port is being built north of the Dhamra river mouth. In any event, the impacts of any ancient port would be significantly different from those of a modern, deepwater industrial port, with all its attendant trappings and secondary development, making this a specious argument.

    There are serious and acknowledged flaws in the environment impact analysis conducted for the port in 1997; poor baseline ecological data, omission of the impacts on turtles, impacts of noise and chemical pollution and a poor hazard analysis and emergency plan. The EIA also considers a port with significantly different specifications from the project currently being built. The 1997 EIA also considered the port site on Kanika Sands, whereas the site is now on the mainland. The proposed capacity at the time clearance was accorded was 20 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) where as the proposed capacity is now 83 mtpa. The original project was to handle bulk carriers up to 120,000 deadweight tons (dwt); the revised plan proposes handling ships up to 180,000 dwt. Refer to for more details.

    Until early 2006, Tata promised to reconsider their involvement in this project if there was any evidence of ecological significance in the region. Since 2006, this shifted as per the convenience of the company to “mitigation” rather than avoidance of harm. This is obviously contrary to the Precautionary Approach, which Tata Steel as a member of the Global Compact professes to adhere to.

    Multiple constituencies have expressed their concerns over the port:

    The National Fishworkers Forum (the apex body for over a million traditional fishworkers in India) and the Orissa Traditional Fishworkers Union (representing the interests of over 100,000 traditional fishermen in the state) have stated their public opposition to the port. Please refer to for the OTFWU’s opposition to this project.
    Over 200 scientists and academics, including over 40 members of the IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group have raised their concerns on this project and have asked for the relocation of the port. Please refer to for further details on this.
    Several national and local environmental and conservation organizations, besides Greenpeace India, have at various points of time, publicly stated their concerns and opposition to this project.

    Adopting a route of mitigation when the option of prevention clearly exists (the port is still in its initial stages of construction and alternatives do exist) is clearly contrary to the precautionary principle which TATA Steel professes to abide by. The promoters of the Dhamra Port (including Mr. Tata, widely respected for his integrity) need to decide if the port is important enough to justify the loss of their reputations in a global environment that is becoming increasingly questioning of ecological destruction unleashed in the name of development and profits.

  16. From Amian Dutta, DPCL
    This is some additional information, which i had prepared.

    The Story so Far …
    The following is a brief chronology of the Dhamra port project….

    Pre – Mughal period :
    Not many are aware of the rich maritime heritage of Orissa with historic trade links to the Mediterranean World on the west and Southeast Asian islands, Sri Lanka, Burma, China in the east. Orissa had a number of ancient ports during the reign of the Hindu dynasties in the pre-Mughal period namely the Mauryan dynasty, the Chola, the Khushana and the Gupta period, especially the Kalinga before the invasion of Ashoka. The annual festival of Bali Yatra bears testimony to the maritime legacy of Orissa, when the mariners of Orissa the ‘sadhabas’ would set sail to their trade destinations. Dhamra port is nothing but a part of that legacy.

    Circa 1800: –
    While many of the ancient ports were forgotten with the ravages of time, even during the British Raj, this port was vibrant and was an important link for trade and commerce between Bengal & Orissa and the first official notification defining the limits of the port dates back to 28.3.1881 published in the Calcutta Gazette. The port limits were subsequently extended on 09.06.1931 and again redefined on 1998.

    Ports are infrastructural assets catering to the need of a nation and in this case a need for a deep water port was felt to cater to the needs of North Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

    The Government of Orissa (GOO) explored the possibilities of a deep water port in Orissa and IIT, Chennai was requested to suggest possible deep water port sites. IIT, Chennai suggested Dhamra as the best possible location for the development of a deep water port.

    The GOO then commissioned a feasibility study through RAIL India Technical & Economic Services (RITES) for a deep water port project.

    A study report is submitted by RITES to the GOO for development of a deep water port at Dhamra, which has been functioning as a fishing jetty.

    The GOO then started looking for interested developers who could undertake this port project and a concession agreement is signed on 2nd April 1998 with International Seaports Private Ltd., a joint venture of L & T, SSA International
    Inc., and Precious Shipping Public Company Ltd. The project is proposed to be implemented in a SPV viz Dhamra Port Company Pvt. Ltd. (DPCPL), and all rights and obligations of ISPL would be assigned to and assumed by DPCPL for the duration of the concession agreement (34 years).

    ISPL engages Berger and Abam, an US Consultancy to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the dhamra port project. Kirloskar Consultants are then entrusted with the EIA study. and the EIA study is completed by Oct 1997 when the EIA report is submitted to ISPL by Kirloskar Consultants.

    2.04.98: The port area being under CRZ – I(ii) in accordance with CRZ notification dtd 19.2.1991 [2], GOO applies for environment clearance to the Ministry of Surface Transport for the Dhamra Port Expansion Project [1], the mandated authority as per powers delegated by the MOEF vide notification dated 9th July 1997, wherein the Empowered Committee for Environmental Clearances (ECEC) for port projects was constituted by the MOST comprising of experts from both MOST and MOEF for this purpose.
    The ECEC undertook two years of scrutiny as described below before the environment clearance was granted as described below –

    17.09.98: The Orissa Pollution Control Board gives its consent /NOC for development of the port project subject to adherence to its instructions on this subject.

    17.10.98 : Additional information is sought by the ECEC on various aspects. And such clarifications are submitted by undertaking supplementary EIA studies.

    11.12.98: One of the first voices of dissent, Mr. Banka Bihari Das (Orissa Krishak Mahasangh) writes to MoEF against giving Environment Clearance to Dhamra port bringing up the issue of turtles among other contentions. Causing the GOI to seek clarifications from the GOO on these contentions.

    18.12.08 : The ECEC in its seventh meeting calls for further clarifications including that of the location of the port.

    30.12.98 : Govt of Orissa replies to the Government of India along with
    Further addendum to EIA covering the final location
    Report of Chief Wildlife Warden of Orissa [30.12.1998]confirming that the site of the proposed port is outside the boundary of Bhittarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, further that the sanctuary is separated from the port site by the Dhamra river and further that no crocodile is seen on the coast close to the port. The report also confirms that the proposed port site is away from the Olive ridley nesting site at Gahirmatha by as much as 15 kms as the crow flies and 30 kms by water route. This report also confirms that there is no other endangered marine life in the close vicinity of the proposed port site and that there is no likelihood of the port affecting the nesting of the sea turtles.
    Addendum on Updated Impact Assessment
    Addendum on Updated Environment Management Plan.

    14.01.99 : The Govt of Orissa clarifies to the GOI the CRZ status of the port site, which is CRZ-I(ii).

    02.02.99 : GOO further clarifies to GOI on points raised by Shri Banka Bihari Das

    Along with
    copies of original notification of the Dhamra port dated 30.3.1881 and 9.6.1931
    Communication from the Ministry of Defence conveying their no objection to the project

    09.02.99 : GOI seeks further clarification from GOO.

    27.09.99 : GoO furnishes clarifications along with
    Communication from the Director, Environment on CRZ status
    Copies of original notification of the Dhamra port dated 30.3.1881 and 9.6.1931
    Communication from the Ministry of Defence conveying their no objection to the project
    Further addenda to the EIA in respect of EIA of new navigation channel.
    EIA with respect to Marine Living Resources
    Plan on Greenbelt development

    8.11.1999: Ultimately after due scrutiny and examination, in the 11th meeting of the ECEC for port projects it was decided to grant environment clearance for the Dhamra port expansion project.

    04.01.2000: MOST conveys the Environment Clearance of GOI to GOO.

    31.03.2000: The Beach Protection Council, Orissa files appeal with the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) with contentions raised regarding the competency of the MOST to grant environment clearance, on the CRZ status of the area and it being detrimental to olive ridleys. Contentions similar to that being voiced at present by Greenpeace India and others.

    7. 05. 2000: In a detailed order by the NEAA describing the due inquiry conducted, the NEAA dismisses the appeal filed by the Beach Protection Council concluding that the environment clearance granted was well within the powers delegated to the MOST and having found “no mangroves or forests or breeding grounds of turtles” and “With the area between the High Tide Line and the Low Tide Line to be covered by Dhamra Port Expansion Project being of clay soil and very sticky and could never become a breeding centre for turtles” The NEAA in its order also scrutinized the CRZ classification and the competency of ECEC (MOST) and conducted examination of witnesses and exhibits submitted to the NEAA.

    Construction commences in the Dhamra port project, but eventually stops due to the lack of interest by foreign partners contributed by economic recession and other factors.

    2004 :
    Meanwhile from 2002 to 2004, the CEC (Central Empowered Committee) had been taking active interest and pro-active measures in turtle conservation in Orissa issuing interim directions on 19.12.02 and 7.03.03. During this phase it had also visited the nesting sites of Orissa numerous times to oversee the compliance of its interim directions by the State Govt. It was on one of these visits (in Feb 2004) accompanied by Mr. Bittu Sehgal and Mr. V.R. Chitrapu (both special invitees) that the CEC most possibly unaware of the order of NEAA on dhamra port made some observations regarding the port project. The CEC was also unaware of the port project location, the orientation of our navigational channel and these observations have to be interpreted in the light in which they were stated i.e. as ‘observations’.

    TATA Steel evinces interest in the Dhamra port project which was in limbo all this while and the feasibility of reviving this port project is explored. Eventually due diligence is conducted and TATA Steel enters into a Joint Venture with Larsen & Toubro for implementing this project.

    However in the face of dissenters and opposition to the port in conservation circles, TATA Steel holds several meetings and discussions with key conservationists in Bombay, and agrees to a proposal for a further study of the impact of the port on turtles.

    01.09.04 : TATA Steel approaches WWF – India for “Monitoring the impact of the Dhamra port on Ecology of the marine and island eco-system”

    29.10.04: The Shareholders and Subscription Agreement is signed by TATA Steel for the port project.

    14.12.04: TATA Steel invites and arranges a meeting with all concerned NGOs to discuss their concerns regarding the port project attended by M/s Bittu Sehgal, Bivash Pandav, Kartik Shanker, Deepak Apte (BNHS), Ms. Aarti Sridhar, Ashish Fernandes,
    The promotors were represented by M/s Indronil Sengupta, D. Chakraborty ( L & T), R.K. Jain (L & T), Ram Agarwal and S.M.R. Prasad.

    There was a clear consensus that more biological studies especially on turtles is needed and should be carried out in the project site, including satellite tracking of turtles. And that re-location to the north would make the port unviable needing break water and a long navigational channel.

    28.12.04: MD, TATA Steel meets with Mr. Bittu Sehgal and though perceptions of the port project differ, both agree that more studies need to be done on this subject.

    15.01.05 : Aarthi Sridhar, Kartik Shanker (ATREE) and Bibhash Pandav (WII) submit statement of views on impact of port on the marine environment and terms of engagement for assessing environmental impacts of the proposed port project.

    24.01.05 : Work order is issued to WWF – Orissa for study of spatial distribution of turtles namely “Monitoring the impact of the Dhamra port on Ecology of the marine and island eco-system”.

    21.04.05: TATA Steel approaches BNHS and BNHS convenes a meeting of concerned NGOs attended by MD, TATA Steel and CEO, DPCL at the Hornbill House. The immediate need to conduct further studies was again expressed in this meeting by the promoters and the modalities of the study were discussed. It was agreed that BNHS would carry out the study and complete the same by March 2006 and also that the construction of the port will proceed and if the study reveals that the port will have adverse effects on the turtles, the construction will be stopped.

    09.05.05 : WWF – India does a volte-face and expresses its inability to carry out the study without giving any specific reason for doing so.

    21.06.05 : BNHS submits the final terms of reference and the financial requirement to undertake the EIA.

    01.11.05: TATA Steel (DPCL) agrees not to start sea-side construction activities till the end of March 2006 (until completion of study) as suggested and insisted on by BNHS.

    25.11.05: BNHS returns the money accepted by them for conducting the study on grounds that land acquisition has already begun, a long drawn out process conducted by the State Govt, the eventual owners of the port.

    During this time the GOO also replies to the CEC inviting latter’s attention to exercise completed in respect of environmental clearance, visit of NEAA and actual location of port stating that it is not necessary to shift the location of the port.

    23.02.05: MD, TATA Steel requests Mr. Bittu Sehgal to help in resolving the log jam regarding the study to be conducted pointing out the delays in starting the studies by BNHS and the assurance of TATA Steel of not starting construction till March 2006 the scheduled completion of the BNHS study.

    08.03.06 : Chairman, TATA Sons replies to ED, Greenpeace India mentioning that commitments have to be honored on both ends, pointing out that while construction was withheld for the proposed study which was supposed to have started in November 2005 and completed in March 2006, the study never saw the light of the day.

    July 2006: Aban Marker Kabraji, IUCN Regional Director for Asia meets Mr. Ratan Tata, Chairman of the TATA Sons in Mumbai to discuss various aspects of environment and corporate social responsibility for TATA’s operations, This also includes the conservation of turtles in view of the impending development of Dhamra Port in Orissa State, on the east coast of India. The ensuing communication exchanges between IUCN and TATA Steel & DPCL leads to an agreement between DPCL and IUCN for the latter to undertake a mission for scoping out the issues.

    31.05.07: Greenpeace organizes a press conference in Mumbai and release a critique of the Dhamra port EIA and also a study of North Orissa University.

    01.07.07: NOU in a press conference in Bhubaneswar alleges that Greenpeace has tampered with the original report of the university. And that no such report as claimed by Greenpeace India was prepared by North Orissa University.

    05.07.07: Greenpeace hold a press conference to clarify their stand but fail to convince the press and face demonstration from the people of the Bhadrak District.

    4.10.07: DPCL associates itself with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in a formal association with IUCN. This is the first such association in India and an Indian context. IUCN with its unique membership drawn from states and civil society, its convening mandate and role in addressing difficult often controversial conservation and development issues, its scientific knowledge base, its ability to link policy and action and its unparallel access to high quality conservation expertise resident in its 10,000 members strong six scientific commissions, as well as in its global network of secretariat staff, members and partners starts guiding and advising DPCL to form a sound environment management practice in an active advisory capacity. Currently IUCN experts, who have been working with ports and turtles, are in a continuous process of experience of working with the effects of ports and port operations on sea life and especially turtles are in the process of bringing about one of the best port environment governance in India.

  17. I am positive a company that puts in money to save the Taj Mahal wont go and construct a port without knowing the consequences thereof. I think we are assuming here that the environment groups are right, which isnt always correct. Do you think Tata is foolish enough to do something like this when it knows the move will backfire and bring it a lot of negative publicity?

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