MUMBAI: By choosing to relocate the project site for the mega port at Vadhavan to offshore from onshore, state-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority, which is helming the project, has achieved three main objectives: quell opposition from local farmers and fishermen against the project, improve the viability and operational efficiency of the planned port and reduce logistics costs.
The sand to be used as reclamation material for constructing the offshore port, will now be sourced from sand borrow pits located off the coast of Daman, some 50 kms from Vadhavan. Under the earlier plan to build the port onshore, the reclamation material was to be sourced from land, which involved cutting hills to source the sand, adding to the environmental concerns surrounding the project estimated to cost some Rs65,544 crore.
Besides, sand suppliers were asking for some Rs2,000 per cubic meter from J N Port Authority for supplying the reclamation material, which, if agreed to, would have hurt the viability of the project.
The high cost of sourcing reclamation material assumes added significance as the initial Terms of Reference (ToR) on environment clearance for the new port issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in October 2020 considered reclamation and land filling of 1,473 hectares of land requiring some 86.88 million cubic metres of murrum filling/earth.
However, based on actuals, the reclamation material required was pegged at some 200 million cubic metres for the layout of the new port.
The government reckons that the new port will be viable only if the reclamation material is sourced at about Rs500-800 per cubic meter.
Sourcing sand from Daman would meet this objective.
Further, the area off the coast of Daman from where the sand will be sourced is beyond the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and falls in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), making it easier to get approvals for procuring the reclamation material.
The marine sand will be dredged from depths of 20-25 metres using a trailing suction hopper dredger (TSHD), transported and dumped at the reclamation site.
“Considering the substantial amount of reclamation requirement, it was decided to extract the fill material through marine borrow pits as against earth filling in view of the ecological sensitivity of the region,” J N Port Authority submitted in an affidavit while seeking a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA).
“In view of relocation of the reclamation area based on scientific study and logistics cost savings to the economy on storing and handling containers, a location change was required,” J N Port Authority told DTEPA.
DTEPA was set up by the Union Government in 1991 as an oversight agency to monitor projects while notifying Dahanu taluka as an ecologically fragile area.
J N Port Authority approached the DTEPA for NOC after the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said that “setting up of port in Dahanu taluka Ecologically Fragile Area may be considered subject to clearances under EIA Notification, 2006, CRZ Notification 2011 and clearance from DTEPA and other rules/regulations as applicable”.
Besides, the net present value (NPV) of tractor trailer operations for the entire project over 30 years is estimated at Rs50,868.50 crores under the new layout, significantly lower than the Rs62,383.50 crores estimated for the initial layout.
This reduction was worked out by building the cargo storage yards closer to the cargo berths at the new offshore location. This will help avoid long distance movement of cargo carrying trucks/trailers between storage yards and cargo terminals by trestles connecting the offshore berths with the onshore back-up storage yards, entailing high operating costs.
This would also have increased the carbon footprint due to the large number of tractor trailers required for travelling long distances from the berths to the storage yards and back.
Shorter distance for tractor/trailer movements from the yards to the cargo berths and vice versa, under the revised layout, will make the operations more efficient and reduce the turnaround time of ships, cut logistics costs and impart a competitive edge to the new port, sources said.
The Vadhavan port will now be located 4-6 kms inside the sea from the earlier onshore site. This will address concerns over the ecologically fragile area, environmental damage and pollution in Dahanu taluka.
This will enable sustainable development of the planned port with positive impact on the surrounding environment, J N Port Authority stated.
Since Vadhavan will be a greenfield project, the port authority favoured optimizing the port layout considering futuristic requirements, operational efficiency, state-of-the-art development and eco-friendly port.
“Considering all these aspects, the storage yards are planned nearer to the berths,” the port authority told DTEPA.
On 31 July, DTEPA granted permission to J N Port Authority to develop Vadhavan port subject to various terms and conditions imposed by MoEF&CC and its authorities, including Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as carrying out the recommendations made by expert groups and expert agencies.
The new offshore site for building Vadhavan port falls within the domain of the Central government and beyond the area of Dahanu taluka.
The new port will be developed by a special purpose vehicle (SPV) in which J N Port Authority will hold 74 percent stake while Maharashtra Maritime Board will own 26 percent stake.
The SPV will invest some Rs16,140 crore to build basic infrastructure such as breakwater, reclamation, rail and road connectivity linkages, power, water lines and common utility.
Terminal operations and cargo handling infrastructure will be developed through public-private partnership (PPP) mode.