By Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, April 15 (IANS) After a prolonged legal battle and a court verdict in its favour, the Odisha government is set to renew the concession agreements (CAs) as well as expedite the land acquisition process for 10 minor ports along its coast.
“As the Orissa High Court has disposed of the case pertaining to the non-major port projects, we have initiated the process of renewal of the concession agreements,” Commerce Minister Ramesh Majhi told IANS.
He also said the land acquisition process is in full swing for several port projects.
The Odisha government had proposed to set up 13 minor ports along its 480-km-long coastline. Of these, only two — Dhamra and Gopalpur — are functional, one has been abandoned due to environmental concerns and no substantial development has taken place at 10 other locations due to several legal and other hurdles.
A public suit was filed in the court in 2011 challenging the state government’s port policy. It termed signing of MoUs with private industrial houses without going for the transparency method of international bidding was illegal.
Environment activist Biswajit Mohanty, who had filed the suit, said the route adopted would deprive the government of huge revenue. However, the case was disposed of as the petitioner did not turn up for the hearing, an official said.
“We are in the process of renewing the agreements for the Subarnarekha and Astarang port projects. We will sign an agreement with Aditya Birla Group, which has proposed to set up a port at Chudamani,” the minister added.
He said a discussion at the official level with the proponents of these projects has already been held.
The state government proposed five ports in Balasore’s Bichitrapur, the Subarnarekha’s confluence, Bahabalpur and Inchudi.
This apart, there were proposals for constructing ports at Chudamani and Dhamra in Bhadrak district and at Palur, Gopalpur and the Bahuda’s confluence in Ganjam district, at Astarang and Baliharchandi in Puri district and at Jatadhar in Jagatsinghpur district.
Some of the chosen sites fell through as the proponents, including Posco India, walked out while the one at Barunei Muhan was shelved because of its potentially damaging ecological impact.
Meanwhile, the decision of the state government to expedite land acquisition has benefited Tata Steel, which has executed a definitive agreement with Chennai-based Creative Port Development (CPDPL) and their promoters for the proposed development of Subarnarekha Port.
It will acquire majority equity stake in CPDPL, and the port development is envisaged through a wholly-owned subsidiary, Subarnarekha Port (SPPL).
(Chinmaya Dehury can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)