Kendrapara: The first riverine port of the state was announced on the Mahanadi River at Akhadasali village under Mahakalapara block in Kendrapara district December 8, 2018. CM Naveen, during his visit to the district, made the announcement.
But about two years later, the fate of this proposed port hangs in balance owing to administrative apathy. Some are considering it to be a gateway to prosperity and some others are opposing it as they fear it would spell doom for the Bhitarkanika ecosystem.
The state government had convened a meeting in the month of July, 2018 where there were detailed discussions about the setting up of the port. Initially, it was estimated that the port would be established at a cost Rs 2,110 crore and it was then proposed that the port would handle 18.43 MT cargo a year.
Meanwhile one and a half years have passed but the proposed port is yet to see any progress.
Worthy to note, some environmentalists oppose this riverine port.
“The port would have a detrimental impact on the ecosystem of Bhitarkanika. The identified spot for the proposed port is not far from Gahirmatha, the nesting beach for Olive Ridley turtles. They may not be seen on the beach. This apart, the mangrove forest, referred to as a natural barrier, will also suffer substantial damage,” observed environmentalist Hemant Kumar Rout.
Echoing the same, honorary secretary of Wildlife Society of Odisha, Biswajit Mohanty said, “The Forest and Environment Department of the central government has identified 192 villages located around Bhitarkanika National Park and Gahirmatha as sensitive zones. The proposed port at Akhadasali will only pose threat to the marine and wild animals of the locality.”
Apart from wreaking havoc on the ecosystem, it will also deprive over 30,000 fishermen living in the locality of their source of earning livelihood. According to Arjun Mandal, a member of District Fishermen Association, fishermen get a huge quantity of fish of both fresh and saline water all the year round. In the event of the port coming up, the fishermen will no longer get as much fish as they are presently getting which will affect the financial conditions of people living in about 20 villages.
Contrastingly, convener, Mahakalpara Youth Club, Pratap Chandra Mohanty has a different take on the proposed port.
“The port would have created employment opportunities. The district’s financial condition would have witnessed financial development. But the announcement was nothing but an election promise. At the advent of elections, the Kendrapara people are enticed with two promises. One is setting up of industry and the second one is establishing of port,” he said, adding that Barunei port was announced in 2009 and a Thermal Plant was declared in 2014. But they have not seen the light of the day as yet. Akhadasali riverine port will also suffer a similar fate, there is no denying it.
According to some senior citizens and local intelligentsia, the proposed port will give employment directly or indirectly to nearly 15,000 people. Once the port is established, several small and medium scale industries will also come up in the locality which will help boom industries and result in employment.