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Vizhinjam Port to cause ecosystem services loss of Rs 2,027 cr in a year  

17 Nov 2023   |   3 min Read
K P Sethunath

Thiruvananthapuram: The Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL) promoted by the Adani Group may cause ecosystem loss to the tune of Rs 2,027 cr per year. The value of the ecosystem loss has been estimated in a comprehensive study of the port project undertaken by the Janakeeya Padana Samithi (People’s Study Panel). The panel has given a break-up of the value under various categories of ecosystem services loss to reach the yearly value loss of Rs 2,027 cr.

The ecosystem service is a concept used in assessing direct and indirect impact of development projects in a given socio-ecological terrain. According to the panel, in coastal areas ecosystem services could be classified into four categories: direct use value, indirect use value, option value and non-use value. “These services encompass activities like fishing, coastal protection, tourism, water quality improvement, scientific research and preservation of cultural and aesthetic values”.

Based on such an understanding the study stated “In a nutshell, the overall annual value of ecosystem services lost due to the Vizhinjam Port project is estimated to be a substantial Rs 2,027 cr, underscoring the need for comprehensive environmental assessments that consider both environmental sustainability and economic development”.

The People’s Study Panel chaired by Dr. KV Thomas former chief scientist and group head National Centre for Earth Sciences Studies (NCESS) comprised members with expertise in fisheries, coastal ecology and disaster management.

The panel has identified the value loss under the following areas. The estimated losses due to the cessation of reef fishing is projected at Rs 12 cr per year while the inability to conduct shore-seine fishing at Rs 27 cr. The disruption of beach-based sports and recreational activities will result in a value loss of Rs 23 cr while the decline in tourism is expected to cause a value loss of Rs 78 cr per year. “Additionally, the use value, option value, and existence value of the sandy beaches amount to Rs 1,665 cr.

The study report is scheduled to be released in public by eminent writer Ramachandra Guha on November 21 coinciding with World Fisheries Day.The People’s Study Panel report is coming in the background of a highly publicised event celebrating the arrival of the first ship by the state government in October. The ‘ship’ from China, which docked at Vizhinjam on October 15, carried a gantry crane to handle containers for the port still under construction.

The summary of the report accessed by The Malabar Journal ahead of its release also says the port is unlikely to be fully operational even by 2025 despite the ruling Left Democratic Front and opposition United Democratic Front leaders in Kerala vying with each other for taking credit for the project.

The submission made by the Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd to the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on August 24, 2023 stated that the breakwater construction is only 62 percent complete, though the work began eight years ago. It also stated that the project’s Phase 1 will be completed in December 2024, which is five years behind the schedule.

Adani Ports website describes Vizhinjam Port as an ambitious step forward on the path to prosperity. “The world class future ready post is the only transshipment hub in the Indian subcontinent, closest to the international shipping routes and is centrally located on the Indian coastline”. The company also claims that Vizhinjam Port offers large-scale automation for quick turnaround of vessels and infrastructure to handle megamax containerships. In the first phase the capacity will be one million TEUs and in subsequent phases another 6.2 million TEUs will be added.

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