Vadhavan Port Project: Two Sides of a Coin

The Government of India, representing the public sector, along with the private sector players has been working continuously on various development projects related to infrastructure creation across the country. All these projects are aimed at one common goal: an Aatmanirbhar Bharat that is a focal point for the global supply chain.

On these lines, Sanjay Sethi (Chairperson, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA)) recently declared the proposed Vadhavan Port project in Maharashtra as a project of national importance. This visionary initiative, with a proposed budget of more than INR 75,000, was greenlit by the Union Cabinet in February 2020 under the Sagarmala Programme and is poised to bring about transformative changes in the region.

Situated in the eco-sensitive Dahanu taluka of Maharashtra’s Palghar district, Vadhavan Port has a natural draft of around 20 meters near the shore positions. This makes the Port an ideal hub for handling larger container vessels of 16,000 to 20,000 TEU, which in turn offers advantages of scale and reduced logistics costs.

Envisioned to be a major port under the Indian Ports Act, the Vadhavan Port’s investment proposal is currently under consideration by the Union government. Sanjay Sethi reassured that the construction would not adversely impact the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, backed by a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Ministry of Atomic Energy.

Proposed Vadhavan Port

However, there has been widespread opposition to the project by local communities, who fear displacement and loss of customary livelihoods as experienced by indigenous communities in Raigad’s Uran taluka (where JNPA operates India’s largest cargo port at Nhava Sheva).

The Dahanu Taluka was declared an Environmentally Fragile Zone in 1991 by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), following the commissioning of the Thermal Power Plant at Dahanu. The DTEPA was formed to prepare a development plan for Dahanu Taluka in 1997. Since then, various organizations have raised objections to the construction of the port citing the prohibition of land use change in ecologically sensitive areas.

A 4-year comprehensive examination was done by environmental experts to ensure compliance with all environmental laws. Eventually, the port project received approval from the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA) on 31 July 2023. The permission removed a big obstacle in the development of the port, and the port authority can now apply to the Expert Appraisal Committee attached to the Environment Ministry, seeking environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances for the project.

Sethi emphasized fair compensation for land acquisition and adequate compensation for fishermen. Studies by the Central Water and Energy Research Centre, Pune, have assessed potential impacts on the Tarapur Nuclear Power Station, dispelling concerns about oil spills and environmental risks.

Sethi and Palghar collector Govind Bodke highlighted the substantial employment opportunities the port would generate, with at least 50,000 workers needed during the construction phase. The development includes a dedicated 33.4-kilometer road and a 12-kilometer rail line from the national highway to the proposed port, contributing to regional infrastructure growth.

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