A few months ago, when a high court judge told the Chennai Port Trust to stop handling all 'dirty cargo’, since it was damaging the health and environment of city, it made other major ports sit up and take notice of their port-city relationship.
Mumbai Port Trust is considering a long-term strategy to gradually move all dirty cargo like coal and iron ore to other appropriate destinations. The July 2010 chlorine gas leak incident at the port is a reminder.
“Dirty cargo can be moved north,” said a senior port official. “We have to come up with alternative revenue streams. As industrial activity goes up, we can have things like gas power station instead of coal and reduce our dependence on dirty cargo.”
Mormugao and Cochin port trust are also among the ports identified by the government in the high-risk category.
The severity of hazards is the lowest in case of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Paradip and Tuticorin Port Trusts because of their distance from the main city. Kolkata Port Trust is also under a low level of hazard as the quantity of dirty cargo handled out of the port is much less. “In Kolkata, congestion is a problem, but since we do not handle iron or dry bulk cargo, city life is not much affected,” said M L Meena, chairman, Kolkata Port Trust.
The working group report on the 12th Plan has stressed on the need to consider relocation of some port facilities away from urban areas.
“Port in the city is a natural harbour and it cannot be wasted. It provides security,” a senior Mumbai Port Trust official said. Several cities have alternative port locations, like Chennai with the development of Ennore port, Kolkata with the Haldia docks and Mumbai with the Nhava Sheva port in Navi Mumbai.
Attempts by major ports to enhance their revenues through innovative land uses are often stymied by slow and ambiguous decision making both at the port level and at the centre. Recognising the problem, the government established the Buddhiraja Committee, which made three sets of recommendations, one each for Kolkata and Mumbai, and a third for other major ports.
Based on the latter, the shipping ministry announced the Land Policy for major ports in March 2004 amending the Major Port Trusts Act of 1963, but excluded the ports of Mumbai and Kolkata from its purview.