New Seaport development is a significant activity towards India’s economic development. Tamilnadu has 3 ports viz. Chennai Port, Ennore Port & Tuticorin Port. Recently a fourth seaport has been proposed at Enayam, Colachel in Kanyakumari District. Central government has given a go ahead to the Enayam International Seaport. This port will act as the southern trans-shipment gateway. The estimated cost for this project is Rs 28000 crore. 500 acres of land will be reclaimed from the sea.
What is “Sagar Mala” project ?
“Sagar Mala” project is a strategic and customer-oriented initiative of the Government of India to modernize India’s Ports so that port-led development can be augmented and coastlines can be developed to contribute towards India’s growth. It looks towards transforming the existing Ports into modern world class Ports and integrate the development of the Ports, the Industrial clusters and hinterland and efficient evacuation systems through road, rail, inland and coastal waterways resulting in Ports becoming the drivers of economic activity in coastal areas.
“Sagar Mala” is an initiative similar to the “Golden Quadrilateral” project that started during the Vajpayee government focusing on connecting the highways.
Colachel is a beautiful town in Kanyakumari District which has a population of around 50000. History notes that Vasco Da Gama had reached here after landing at Goa. Before the state reorganization in 1956, it was part of the Travancore state. Post 1956 this became a part of Tamilnadu. Colachel is located at a distance of 40 kms from Kanyakumari and 20 kms from Nagercoil. Enayam where the proposed harbor will be built is 11 kms from Colachel.
What is Transshipment Harbour ?
Currently Colombo port is the major transshipment port for goods to be delivered to southern states of India. Colombo port accounts for one fourth of India’s total transshipment. What does this mean?
Mother ships (heavy cargo carriers) carrying unimaginable load of cargo to various places of the world cannot be docked in our existing ports. Colombo port has the capability to berth these mother ships (journeying around Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal) and unload cargos. These cargos destined to reach India will be shipped through smaller ships which reach to the ports in India. Transshipment harbor is similar to Transit Airport wherein you switch to another flight helping you reach to your destination.
Colombo receives most of the revenue as transshipment fees which India is losing out. Forming a natural harbor at Enayam will bring in mother ships here rather than moving to Colombo, thereby bringing revenue to India than Sri Lanka.
Disadvantages of Enayam Port
Above mentioned points sounds very exciting that will bring in a world class harbour in Tamilnadu. Another prospect seems to be bringing in a lot of jobs around this district. But this rosy picture is not the actual fact. Enayam harbour will bring in lots of destructions when compared to the benefits that we have looked so far. Long term thinking needs to be in place while considering these ports. Let’s look at the drawbacks:
Vallarpadam Port, Cochin
A container trans-shipment facility in Vallarpadam, Cochin was commissioned in 2011. This facility is a part of the Cochin Port and the construction started in 2005. This was India’s first International Container Transshipment Terminal and has the capability to handle 1 million Twenty Foot Equivalent units (TEUs). A report says that during the financial year 2014-15 only 17000 TEUs was handled at Vallarpadam which is very paltry considering it’s capacity. A TEU is the standard size of a container and a common measure of capacity in the container business. Obvioulsy this port has been making losses and is not being utilized to it’s capacity. Vessels prefer Colombo than Vallarpadam.
Colombo is way ahead of Vallarpadam in terms of capacity, pricing and productivity. Large ships prefer Colombo over Vallarpadam. Of course there are lot many bureaucratic and admininistrative reasons behind the losses at Vallarpadam. My idea is not to focus on Vallarpadam’s loss but to check the feasibility of Enayam port in this situation. After all Vallarpadam is located just 270 kms away from Enayam.
Vizhinjam Port, Trivandrum
Adding to Vallarpadam, another trans-shipment port is being built at Vizhinjam in Trivandrum. This port is coming up at a distance of 50 kms from Enayam. The project is an initiative by the Kerala government and has been awarded to “Adani Ports and SEZ” in 2015. Construction began in December 2015 and is expected to be completed in 2019. With Vallarpadam in loss and Vizhinjam coming up with a new port just 50 kms away from Enayam, we wonder why another port is required at Enayam.
Re-claiming space from sea
Enayam port is fully funded by the Government of India. Enayam does not have land space for development of a port. This means that land will be reclaimed from sea for more than 500 acres. Many ports take space from land rather than sea thereby not impacting the ocean reserves in a significant way. Reclaiming land from sea will destroy the fragile ecosystem and fishes. Fishing which is the primary livelihood for many around these areas will be impacted severely.
Around 40 villages around Enayam will be impacted in a significant way. If the land is claimed at shore the impact to nature in sea would have been limited. Now that 500+ acres inside sea will be claimed, the impact would be very severe.
Movement of Goods
If a port does come in Enayam the movement of cargos from here to various parts of Tamilnadu and other areas would require heavy infrastructure. Roads, bridges, container vehicles all seems to be a good prospect, but at a heavy cost. The area beyond Kanyakumari till Kerala is one of the beautiful places to visit in Tamilnadu. Places such as Muttom, Rajakkamangalam, Colachel etc. keep the pristine glory of nature intact. Heavy development also leads to the destruction of nature.
Will it benefit India economically?
With nearby ports at Vallarpadam (Cochin) & Vizhinjam (Trivandrum) will Enayam be able to make profits? This remains as a million dollar question. Moreover a port at Enayam will also have a negative impact on our long standing Tuticorin harbour. Cargo movement to Tuticorin Port will come down drastically. Making good use of Tuticorin Port seems to be a better proposal than one coming up at Enayam.
Protests against the port
September 18th 2016 saw hundreds of fishermen and their family members staging a protest against the proposed port. The fishermen expressed fear of severe sea erosion, which could affect their livelihood, if the port, proposed to be established on over 500 acres of sea area. The project would displace over 50,000 fishermen families.
The protest, spearheaded by Peoples’ Movement Against Enayam International Container Transshipment Terminal (PMAEICTT), saw the participation of women and children belonging to the fishermen community. PMAEICTT had been opposing the project for the last one year and had staged various agitations, including a mammoth human chain at Kodimunai seashore in August 2016.
Reclaiming 500 acres of land in sea is no mean task. This implies that huge stones / rocks will have to be filled in sea to establish the area. To get a surface of 500 acres at least 3000 acres of sea below the surface should be filled with stones. Just imagine how the rocks will be sourced from, will a mountain be destroyed to get these stones? Is it worth losing hills in Western Ghats to build this harbour?
Not just mountains but also the corals & different varieties of sea bodies will be destroyed because of this port.
Am I wrong in stating that “India does not require another major port for trans-shipment at Enayam but it requires minor ports with good connectivity for cargo movement? Let’s think…
By Anton Niresh