Visakhapatnam Port Trust was at the receiving end on Friday with the pollution sufferers pouring out their woes due to open handling of coal and iron ore at an environmental public hearing to take up expansion and dredging works investing Rs.2,500 crore.
Tactful handling by the authorities prevented an attempt by the CPI and other activists from disrupting the proceedings. Joint Collector J. Nivas, who chaired the hearing in the port area, allowed the stakeholders to speak from their place without having to go to the podium. He said that he would submit a report to the Government based on the deliberations.
In his response, Port Chairman M.T. Krishna Babu said that they would invest nearly Rs.200 crore in the next three to four years to make Visakhapatnam Port a `green port’ by removing the ‘dirty’ port tag within five years.
M.A Rasool, an advocate who filed a petition in the High Court against the port pollution, said the port authorities were playing havoc with the lives of the people, especially those in the old city.
Shireen Rehman, of the Chaitanya Sravanthi, said the environment impact assessment report was full of flaws and no attempt was made to study the pollution issue seriously and find solutions.
In response, port chairman Krishna Babu said the issues raised by the public would be taken note of and every effort would be made to address them. The mechanisation of the iron ore handling complex, the construction of new berths and the expansion of the container terminal, taken up at total cost of Rs. 2,500 crore, would reduce pollution levels. “We will make every effort to make Vizag a green port in the next five years,” he promised.
Bestowed with the second longest coastline in the country, Visakhapatnam on the east coast would become the ideal gateway and the transshipment. The Prime Minister’s Office was relentlessly working on cabotage relaxation for Visakhapatnam. Considering the potential, the VPT was extending 50 per cent concession on vessel-related charges for six months to encourage shipping lines to commence services offering direct connectivity from Visakhapatnam to new ports of call. The same would be reviewed after six months, Krishna Babu said. In his welcome address, chief operating officer, Visakha Container Terminal, Sushil Mulchandani highlighted the developments happening in and around Port City through a presentation. He invited the shipping lines to visit Visakhapatnam and understand the potential of the vast hinterland it has.