Baliapal: With opposition of the locals to the project refusing to die down, the fate of proposed Subarnarekha port project at Choumukh sea mouth under this block in Balasore district hangs in balance. The uncertainty over the project has intensified after the West Bengal government inked a pact with the Adani Group, September 19 for construction of Tajpur port project near Digha coast. It is apprehended that the Tajpur port project might spell doom for the Subarnarekha port project as it is only 38 km from the Subarnarekha sea mouth as the latter fails to make any headway. The state government had signed a memorandum with Chennai Creative Port in 2008 for construction of Subarnarekha port.
However, stiff opposition of the locals and lack of environmental clearance pushed the project into cold storage. Later, the Chief Minister laid the foundation for the project after the Centre granted environmental clearance for the project in 2019 and an agreement was signed with Tata Group for construction of the project. It was claimed that the Subarnarekha port project to be built at an expenditure of Rs 5,000 crore will be the largest and deepest port along the whole eastern coast and will usher in economic prosperity in the area by generating employment for over 3,000 people.
However, an outfit named Bhitamati Surakhya Manch launched a protest against the project. It claimed that over 60,000 locals in six panchayats in the proposed port area will be displaced and their farmlands which gives them double crop in a year will be acquired. The protest only picked up momentum and refused to die down. The anti-port group demanded that the state government instead of constructing a port should look into establishment of an agriculture based industry in the area. They warned that they will not desist from their agitation and opposed establishment of a port till the last drop of blood is in their body. They refused to believe the claim that no one will be displaced for the project and the lands under private ownership will not be acquired. They wanted the state government to publish notification in this regard through the district Collector.
However, Tata Group has started acquiring land for the roads and rail routes after the local youths announced their support for the project. The youths believe that the establishment of the port will usher in development and employment and no one will have to work as migrant labourer away from home. It is being claimed that the port will be set up completely inside the sea but the locals refused to believe the claims. They questioned the district administration’s silence on the issue.
Meanwhile, what has aggravated the situation is the foray of Adani group into Tajpur port project on Digha coast. The West Bengal government approved the Adani group’s bid for establishment of Tajpur port, September 19. The Adani group will spend over Rs 25,000 crore including Rs 15,000 crore for the port and Rs 10,000 crore on other industries in the project which will generate employment for over 25,000 people. Notably, Subarnarekha port project will not be possible if the Tajpur port project becomes functional as Subarnarekha sea mouth is just 38 km away from Tajpur.
Speculations are rife that whether Subarnarekha port project will be commercially viable if Tajpur port is established before it. Moreover, the locals in West Bengal are not opposing Tajpur port project while their state government is providing all facilities to Adani Group for establishment of the port. The Subarnarekha port is more conducive for commercial operations. However, the fate of the project hangs in the balance with the locals continuing to oppose it and state government failing to resolve the impasse.