State-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) plans to build a mega port at Vadhavan near Dahanu in Maharashtra's Palghar district at an offshore location instead of the earlier onshore site, in a change that requires large-scale reclamation for which material will be sourced from sand borrow pits off the coast of Daman some 50 kms away.
The scope of the terms of reference (ToR) for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study for the new port granted by the government's Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) in October 2020 included reclamation and landfilling of 1,473 hectares of land using earth filling, which required 86.88 million cubic metres.
However, with the port layout being shifted to an offshore site, the actual requirement of reclamation is estimated at some 200 million cubic metres.
Sources said that JNPA decided to shift the location of Vadhavan Port offshore due to issues associated with sourcing of material for reclamation.
"Considering the much higher requirement of reclamation material for the new port, it was decided to extract the fill material from marine borrow pits located off the coast of Daman instead of earth filling due to the ecological sensitivity of the region," a person briefed on the plan said.
JNPA has sought amendments to the terms of reference due to the modification it has made in the port's master plan and change in sourcing material for reclamation from offshore sand borrow pits, the person said.
After discussing the proposed amendments at a meeting in February-March, the EAC observed that the "proposal cannot be considered at this moment as the entire scope and configuration (of the earlier terms of reference) has changed". It advised the port authority to revise the project final report "considering the current scope of work with all the parameters and submit it to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for further consideration".
"The information so provided shall be presented before the committee so that additional terms of reference can be considered for the project in due course," according to the minutes of the EAC meeting.
The construction of a new port at Vadhavan is key to the expansion plans of JNPA.
"We have limitations in terms of expansion at Nhava Sheva (where J N Port is located); that is why we are developing Vadhavan Port,"Mr. Sanjay Sethi, JNPA Chairman said.
JNPA has five container handling facilities with a capacity to handle 7.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year.
India's busiest State-owned container port and the country's second largest, handled 6.05 million TEUs in FY23, clocking a growth of 6.45 percent.
Singapore's PSA International Pte Ltd-run Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals Pvt Ltd (BMCT), one of the five container terminals operating at J N Port, has started work on the second phase of the terminal that will add a further 2.4 million
TEUs by 2025, taking the total container handling capacity at JNPA to 10 million TEUs.
"With the speed and efficiency at which J N Port is operating, we will be full in three years.
We have already reached 80 percent of our current capacity. Even when the capacity rises to 10 million TEUs plus by 2025, we will reach full capacity in 2028, then what? We require a new port to meet the demand,"added Unmesh Wagh, Deputy Chairman, JNPA.
The port authority will build the new port through a joint venture with Maharashtra Maritime Board with an equity share of 74 percent and 26 percent respectively. The new port is estimated to cost Rs 73,894 crores.
As the landlord, JNPA will invest some Rs42,266 crore to construct basic infrastructure such as breakwater, dredging, reclamation, land acquisition, rail line/yard and road connectivity, power and water line, internal roads, and common amenities.
Private firms will invest about Rs15,157 crore in the first phase and Rs16,471 crore in the second phase to set up cargo handling facilities.
The new port will be designed to handle some 254 million tonnes (mt) of cargo, including 9.87 million TEUs, according to an "in-principle" approval from the Union Cabinet.
Wagh said that the port authority will source reclamation material for building Vadhavan Port from the sea off the coast of Daman. "We are getting reclamation material from the sea and putting it into the sea for building the new port; we are not
getting it from the land side as envisaged in the earlier terms of reference. It is environment-friendly and economical. Studies have shown that the material to be sourced from the Daman coast is suitable for reclamation,"Wagh said.
"We are getting reclamation material from the sea and putting it into the sea for building the new port; we are not getting it from the land side as envisaged in the earlier terms of reference. It is environment-friendly and economical. Studies have shown that the material to be sourced from the Daman coast is suitable for reclamation,"Wagh said.
When the original terms of reference were granted in 2020, it was not contemplated. "In two years, it has evolved. It is a small change but a positive change," he added.
Several alternatives, according to port industry sources, are "part and parcel of environment impact assessment (EIA) studies" for constructing a new port.
"One of the alternatives for Vadhavan Port requires sourcing more reclamation material from land. Since this would be seen as degrading the environment, it was decided to source the material from the Daman coast. It needs to be included in the terms of reference, that is why JNPA is seeking amendments to the ToR,"said the person briefed on the matter mentioned earlier, adding that the Ministry of Mines was "ready" to give the material sourced from the Daman coast.