Controversy Surrounds Proposed Expansion of Adani’s Kattupalli Port in Tamil Nadu

Controversy Surrounds Proposed Expansion of Adani's Kattupalli Port in Tamil Nadu
Controversy Surrounds Proposed Expansion of Adani's Kattupalli Port in Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) is on the brink of a significant crossroads as it prepares to host a public hearing focused on the ambitious expansion plans for the Adani Group’s Kattupalli Port in Tiruvallur district. Originally slated for a hearing in January 2021, the project’s timeline was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, intensifying a contentious debate that has garnered strong opposition from environmental advocates and opposition factions alike. This expansion endeavor envisions a radical transformation of the port into a multifaceted cargo hub, igniting apprehensions over its potential ecological ramifications, particularly concerning the revered Ennore-Pulicat backwaters and the iconic Pulicat lake, which holds the distinction of being one of India’s largest brackish-water ecosystems.

Initiated in 2019, the Adani Group’s application for environmental clearance to amplify the Kattupalli Port’s capacity comes with an estimated investment of ₹53,031 crore. As detailed within the “Proposed Revised Master Plan Development of Kattupalli Port,” this expansion blueprint encompasses an array of facilities encompassing transloading, backup, and autonomous port craft infrastructure, waste reception mechanisms, and an intricate conveyor system. The venture outlines a sweeping increase in the port’s land area from its existing 330 acres to a sprawling 6,111 acres, a substantial fraction of which is projected to be achieved through reclamation measures involving the depositing of dredged sand into the sea.

Nonetheless, the expansion proposal has sparked fierce resistance from environmental champions and political opponents alike. The grounds for their opposition are multifaceted, centered around concerns that this expansion could potentially transform the historically pristine Ennore-Pulicat backwaters into an industrial enclave, imperiling the sustenance and livelihoods of local fishermen. Additionally, a chorus of alarm has risen regarding potential repercussions on the Pulicat lake – a vital ecological treasure trove – and the associated ecosystem. Of further note is the contention that this ambitious expansion might exacerbate coastal erosion within Tiruvallur and disrupt the delicate equilibrium of the Kattupalli barrier island, a natural buffer crucial for the safeguarding of the Pulicat lake.

Environmental advocacy groups are speaking out against the project, highlighting the potential for heightened flooding risks in Chennai. There are concerns that the expansion could inadvertently block the Kosasthalaiyar river, a critical drainage conduit for the city during periods of heavy rainfall and flooding.

The saga of the public hearing, originally slated for January 22, 2021, has been fraught with delays due to COVID-19 limitations and the contentious nature of the project itself. Despite pre-election vows from the ruling DMK party to curtail the Adani port’s expansion should they come into power, the public hearing has been formally announced, a development that has been met with skepticism and criticism from environmental quarters. With Chief Minister M.K. Stalin at the helm, environmental organizations are rallying for a reevaluation of the project’s potential implications and a renewed commitment to the party’s original stance.