Paradip, June 29: The Paradip Port Trust (PPT) and the Odisha government are locked in yet another row over sand-dredging.
The PPT’s act of lifting sand from accreted land near the sea coast has triggered a controversy. The Odisha government has stopped the sand-lifting operation on the ground that it infringes on the rules framed under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Act.
The PPT has been served with a showcause notice and asked to clarify its stand on the alleged CRZ violation. The port trust, however, claimed that it was well within its rights to lift sand as sand dunes posed threat to the port harbour. The major port, which pays cess to the government for sand-lifting, also faces accusation of commercial use of sand particles in violation of an official agreement reached between the government and the port.
“On finding that the port trust is dredging out sand from near the sea beach, the administration stopped it. The place, where the dredging took place, falls under CRZ. Such an operation is prohibited. We have sought clarification from the port trust officials on the alleged act of impropriety,” said Surajit Das, additional district magistrate, Paradip.
“This is an act of gross irregularity. The administration is not going to tolerate such lapses. The matter is being taken up with the Odisha pollution control board and the director of environment,” Das said.
The CRZ provisions imposes prohibition on activities such as sand-lifting or sand-dredging on the coastal stretches of sea, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers and backwaters, which are influenced by tidal action (in the landward direction) up to 500 metres from the high tide line.
The district administration was empowered to enforce the CRZ provisions in letter and spirit, said Manoj Kumar Mahapatra, divisional forest officer of the Rajnagar mangrove (wildlife) forest division.
Besides, the sand-dredging from within the CRZ territory is detrimental to coastal ecology of the area. The sand dunes and sand banks act as natural barrier against the tidal surge. Its dismantling was bound to trigger sea erosion, Mahapatra said. However, PPT officials justified the sand-dredging and said the operation was carried out within the parameters of law.
“As there is a huge accumulation of sand near the gate-5 of the port, it is necessary to spilt the sand dunes as they pose threat to the harbour. The sand accrued from the dunes was coming in handy to fill up the waterlogged and swampy pockets in the port town,” said Naba Kishore Mishra, secretary of the PPT.
“The PPT is vested with the right to lift sand as it had entered into an agreement with the Odisha government on 15 October, 1999. The port was authorised to lift sand against royalty payment to the government. Over Rs 44 crore royalty has been paid to the government agencies till date. The dredging operation to lift sand was carried out outside the CRZ limits. It’s arbitrary on part of the Odisha government to stop the operation,” Mishra said.