Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dhamra port: threat to Orissa's Olive Ridley Turtles

GREENPEACE Press Release

Evidence of turtles, rare species at Dhamra: TATA must drop port
Mumbai, June 8, 2007: A Greenpeace-commissioned study has unequivocally established that TATA Steel’s port at Dhamra in Orissa would be an ecological blunder, causing irreversible destruction. The North Orissa University team, led by Dr. S.K. Dutta (1) has found evidence of the presence of Olive Ridley turtles as well as other rare species in and around the Dhamra port site. Although the site is less than 5 km. from the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary, India’s second largest mangrove forest, and less than 15 km. from the Gahirmatha nesting beaches, the world’s largest mass nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles, Tata Steel have claimed that the port will have no impact on the turtles
Releasing the report on World Oceans Day, Dr. Dutta, Principal Investigator of the study, said, “This finding shatters the theory that the offshore waters near Dhamra are a no-turtle zone. Even though this is not a turtle nesting ground, over the course of the study, we have recorded over 2,000 dead turtles, victims of mechanised fishing, on the port site and in nearby areas like Kanika Sands.” (2)
“Aside from the turtle aspect,. the Dhamra area is intrinsically rich in biodiversity and deserving of special protection. The area is very important for horseshoe crabs. We have also made two exciting discoveries on the port site itself: the rare Crab-eating Frog is the first record from mainland India, and the White-bellied mangrove snake has thus far only been reported once on the mainland, from the Sundarbans”, Dr. Dutta added.
The port area is an important breeding and nesting ground for the King Crab or Horseshoe Crab, a little known species. Over 1,300 individuals were recorded in the study area, trapped in fishing gear. Further highlighting the ecological significance of the area is the presence of the Crab-eating Frog, F. cancrivora, which has only been reported from the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Southeast Asia until now.
“This is the real test of The Tatas’ claims to be environmentally responsible, a corporate group that would never harm the environment. Ratan Tata has promised to ‘address environmental concerns (concerning Dhamra) in the best possible manner’. (3) Tata Steel have repeatedly asserted that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the port will harm the turtles and if there was they would not build the port. It is time for them to walk the talk. These findings leave them with no option but to withdraw from the project. It is not possible to ‘mitigate’ damage later. This would also be contrary to the precautionary approach that the Tatas claim to stand by” said Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace. (4)
While the project has been cleared by state and central authorities, the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), the basis for this clearance, has recently been exposed by Greenpeace scientists, as being fundamentally flawed and completely inadequate to gauge the project’s ecological impacts (5). The Tatas have yet to respond to this scientific critique.
“We are calling upon the Tatas to withdraw from the project in the light of this new evidence. There is absolutely no way they can build the Dhamra port while simultaneously claiming to respect the environment. For a group that prides themselves on their ‘legacy’, the question they need to answer is, what kind of environmental legacy will they leave behind if the Dhamra port is built?” asked G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Executive Director of Greenpeace.
For more information contact:
Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner +91 99801 99380,

Saumya Tripathy, Greenpeace Communications +91 93438 62212

G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Executive Director, Greenpeace +91 98455 35410

(1) Dr. S.K. Dutta is a member of the IUCN’s Amphibian Specialist Group and Captive Breeding Specialist Group and is also the Head of the Department of Zoology at the North Orissa University.
(2) In addition to these current findings, a satellite telemetry study, done by the Wildlife Institute of India in 2001, showed turtle movement near the port site. A Greenpeace team also recorded mating turtles in the waters north of Kanika Sands, off the port site, in February 2006.
(3) Letter to Greenpeace, December 2004.
(4) As a member of the United Nations Global Compact, Tata Steel has endorsed Principle 7, the Precautionary Approach to environmental challenges.
(5) The Greenpeace critique of the 1997 Dhamra Port EIA can be found at


amlansworld said...

Dear All,

1) Dead turtles washing up the coast cannot be a proof of turtle movement in the port site. As the quoted statement from Dr. SK Dutta clearly says that they have been victims of off shore mechanized fishing. One cant jump to conclusions that washing ashore of carcasses are evidences of turtle movement, this statement is mere speculation.

2) Regarding Horse shoe crabs or King crabs, they are found all along the eastern coast of India from Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal and they are not even listed in the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. (

3) The site record of the white bellied mangrove snake also has to be looked into as there are no definite records from India yet, in fact its range is limited to Northern Australia and parts of South East Asia apart from a single anecdotal evidence from Sunderbans (SK Dutta pers. comm.).

4) Regarding the EIA clearance, it has to be mentioned that the EIA clearance is a elaborate process which is not based on the submission of a single document namely the EIA report. The queries raised by Greenpeace regarding the intended location of the port (as mentioned in the EIA report [original submission] being Kanika Sands are in fact similar to the ones asked by the Empowered Committee of Environmental Clearances (ECEC) for port projects (ministry of surface transport) [ refer minutes of the 7th meeting of the ECEC held on 18/12/98] and subsequently addendums to the original EIA report was submitted in December 1998. In fact Kanika sands was not chosen as the site , because of its vicinity to Gahirmatha WLS and also would have resulted in large scale decimation of the mangroves in Kanika Sands.

5) Additionally, during the process of the EIA , similar queries and reservations about the project were also raised by the Orissa Krishak Mahasangh dtd 11.12.98 and the related correspondence (clarifications to the MOEF and the MOST were written ) should also be referred, to understand the EIA process.

6) The Environmental Clearance was finally granted in 4th jan 2000, and the granting of the EIA by ECEC was also in full compliance of the law of the land.

7) Regardless, an appeal was filed at the NEAA , regarding our EIA Clearance and the clearance process etc., The NEAA examined the entire EIA process & the EIA report, visited the site in question & upheld the EC (vide NEAA Order dtd. 7.5.2000)

Thus the EC of the Dhamra Port Project has undergone rigorous scrutiny. The EIA report submission of 1997 should be read along with the submitted addendums and related correspondence as well as the NEAA judgement

PS: The Dhamra Port Company Ltd is a separate entity and should be addressed as such, addressing it as TATA port is erroneous to say the least.

Amlan Dutta
Manager (Environment)

Anonymous said...

Another attempt to stop development of India by anti India socialist forces under the guise of "environment" and "ecology". The Greenpeace has been proven to have lied (and has been trying to find lots of excuses about its flawed and imaginary report) in this case. Moral of story: organizations like Greenpeace need to avoid like plague Indian social activists who are morally bankrupt and have hidden political agendas.

Anonymous said...

The lies of greenpeace has been exposed. It is interesting to note that a noorganisationlike greenpeace is questioning the integrity of a reputed international organisation like IUCN

Critique of the EIA critique and Biodiversity Assessment

Recently two documents were publicly released and made available on the website of a reputed NGO. The first of this was a purported EIA critique of the Environment Impact Assessment of the Dhamra Chandbali Port expansion project in Orissa, India.

EIA Critique : Factual errors -
This EIA critique suffers from gross inaccuracies, following are the facts regarding the EIA critique :

Facts v/s Greenpeace EIA critique
S.No. As per the Greenpeace critique of the EIA Facts
“The total “land take” is estimated at 9,200 acres exclusive of the intertidal area proposed, according to the EIA.”

The total “land take” for the port is 912 acres and 2033 acres for the rail road corridor
“ This Assessment has been used as the basis for the Orissa Pollution Control Board issuing a No Objection Certificate to the proposed development. On the Same basis, the Prinicipal Secretary, Environment and Forest to the Government of Orissa has given the project Environmental Clearance

The Environment Clearance was granted by the Ministry Of Surface Transport (the competent authority)

“Accordingly, it is questionably as to whether a study which considers in detail only issues within a 10 km radius of the proposed development with more general treatment over a 20km radius is sufficient to capture the full impacts likely to flow from the development”

The study area of 25 km radius around the port expansion of Dhamra port has been considered as the general study area. An area of 5 km on either side of the proposed rail alignment from Dhamra to Bhadrak has been considered separately for study purpose
“Moreover, The EIA considers two options for the port’s location, one on the Kanika Sands itself, and the other on the mainland, before discarding the mainland option in favour of Kanika Sands. The EIA then goes on to evaluate impacts on the basis of the port location on Kanika Sands. However, the project as it is currently being implemented locates the port on the mainland and not Kanika Sands.”
The EIA clearance is an elaborate process, which is not based on the submission of a single document namely the EIA report. The queries raised by Greenpeace regarding the intended location of the port (as mentioned in the EIA report -original submission, being Kanika Sands are in fact similar to the ones asked by the Empowered Committee of Environmental Clearances (ECEC) for port projects. Subsequently, addenda to the original EIA report were submitted in December 1998. In fact Kanika sands was not chosen as the site, because of its vicinity to Gahirmatha WLS and also would have resulted in large-scale decimation of the mangroves in Kanika Sands.

The Biodiversity Assessment Report :
Note : for sake of clarity the “Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra port site and surrounding areas, Orissa” would be referred to as “biodiversity assessment report”

Partly based on the EIA critique findings, and also to substantiate and compliment this critique, a “Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra port site and surrounding areas” was done subsequent to the EIA critique and presented on the website as “Biodiversity assessment of Dhamra port”.

The ‘biodiversity assessment report’ suffers at the onset itself having drawn upon inaccurate analysis of the Greenpeace EIA critique.

Shortly after publishing of this report, it came to light that a similar report “Rapid Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra estuary , Orissa, India” had been prepared by the same research team and submitted to the North Orissa University (NOU).

This report is markedly different and is devoid of entire chapters, which prima facie seems to have been added later on in the glossy “biodiversity assessment” of the NGO. And other changes as mentioned in the table below, seem to be an attempt to misguide public opinion towards a infrastructure project critical to the development of this region. The government of Orissa has taken serious note of these events and is investigating this matter.

A Comparison of both this reports with respect of additions and deletions is given below for the readers benefit –

Chapters/Sections Greenpeace

Title Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra port site and surrounding areas, Orissa Rapid Biodiversity Assessment of Dhamra estuary , Orissa, India
Apparent effort to add gravity to the study title
Extra Chapter - Impacts of Port Constructions Has covered impacts on biodiversity of the port site and surrounding, impact on marine diversity, noise levels, impacts on the Gahirmatha Wildlife Sanctuary Not a part of Report

Extra Chapter - Recommendations Has made few suggestions including that the port project be stopped immediately Not a part of Report

Foreword Describing the port, EIA report and their concern over industrialization planned for Orissa's coastal areas Not a part of Report

Study Area Description of Dhamra port plans have been added Not a part of Report

Prime Objectives "Documentation of biodiversity of the area" "Documentation of biodiversity of Dhamra estuary area including the micro flora and fauna with special reference to the significance of Kanika Sands."
Objective in University report clearly focuses on Kanika Sands a mangrove rich island.
Findings/Observations - regd sighting of mating turtles "From anecdotal records and reports from the fishing community, congregation and mating pairs of sea turtles are observed upto 6 km out to sea from the proposed port site during the peak turtle season" "Congregation and mating pairs of sea turtles were also observed near Dhamra river mouth (personal observation in past)"
Source of data modified
Findings/Observations- regd crab eating frog "Found in mudflats, creeks, mangrove swamps and paddy fields near the Dhamra river mouth area including on the mudflats of the port site itself." "Found in mudflats, creeks, mangrove swamps and paddy fields near Dhamra estuary."

Findings/Obsevations-regd corals "This specimen of a hard coral was discovered on the shore near the Chandanipal point by the study team" Not a part of Report

Findings/Observation-regd turtle mortality Deleted " During the recent months the conflict between the trawler owners and the forest staffs had proved to be fatal for the sea creatures"
Cause of mortality deleted – presenting an incomplete scenario
Findings/Observations - regd dead turtles "While some of this turtles would have been killed in Gahirmatha, many carcasses would be of turtles killed in the offshore waters north of the river mouth and north of Kanika Sands, that is, off the port site." "It is quite obvious that the turtles died in the sea were washed away to the Dhamra side because of the Northward wind…."
Conjectures and speculations on the cause of turtle mortality after having deleted trawl net deaths is definitely misleading
Note: The quoted text from the respective reports are in bold within "-"

We will however limit our discussion to the ‘biodiversity assessment report’, but before this Biodiversity Assessment is discussed, lets ask ourselves three simple questions:

1) Why was the study not done in the peak season ? Was the peak season really over as mentioned in the study?

2) Why were live turtles not sighted?

3) Why do there exist two study reports on the same study, both differing markedly in title and contents?
- The report available at the NGO website says “commissioned by Greenpeace and prepared by the North Orissa University” while the Report available at the NOU website is obviously NOU’s report. So which is the real report?

Turtles & the Biodiversity Assessment report :
This biodiversity assessment was made to be a scientific study forming solid ground and logic of a campaign against the dhamra port. The entire campaign of this NGO has been based on turtles and how this port would harm turtles, however surprisingly the 30 day scientific study fails to prove anything regarding live turtles.

It is incomprehensible as to why a scientific study with a clear aim of monitoring the impact of the port site would be conducted in the non-peak season. And also why the Kanika sands islands were also surveyed and purported to be part of the port site, but we will come to that later.

Forest Dept sources (pers. comm) confirm that the last nesting occurred from 10 – 22nd February this year while hatching lasted till 7th April. So was the peak season really over? And why didn’t the research sight any live turtles during their nine sorties to offshore waters?

The report in absence of sighting of live turtles then moves on to dead turtles, and this study then documents the dead olive ridley carcasses along the dhamra coast. One must bear in mind that a floating object is borne by tidal currents and wind, and is often washed ashore by these. In fact independent studies of the tidal currents which the port authorities had conducted, reveal the true nature of the tidal currents and how these carcasses would have washed ashore (Berger Abam Inc., 1998). 1359 of the 2019 turtle carcasses documented during the study were found on the Kanika Sands island which is definitely not the study site, thus it is obvious that turtle carcasses are not conclusive evidence as has been presented in the said study.

Neither the Biodiversity assessment report nor the Rapid Biodiversity assessment report explain the reasons behind this phenomenon. While the NOU report briefly mentions the northward wind as a probable cause, the biodiversity assessment report merely speculates on the reason. However circulation and sediment transport evaluation studies conducted by DPCL ((Berger Abam Inc., 1998) clearly show the clock-wise and counter-clockwise tidal movement around the Kanika Sands, accounting for washing ashore of turtle carcasses in dhamra coast and Kanika Sands.

Conclusion :

In light of these facts namely:

1) Presence of two reports on the same subject but differing significantly in content and intention.

2) Research conducted in non-peak season of turtles.

3) No sighting of live turtles, wherein the entire campaign of this NGO is directed at turtles and their habitat.

The said Greenpeace study is questionable in its intent and purpose, as any scientific study is conducted with a clear non-biased approach to the study which seems to be clearly lacking, by having added connotations to the proposed port.

Further, it is highly erroneous to proclaim these species as rare species, scientific terms such as ‘rare’, ‘ endangered’ are often misused. These ratings are in fact prescribed and evaluated by the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) and these are the IUCN listings of the species said to be documented by the study team.

Crab eating frog :
Listed as Least Concern (IUCN) in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

White bellied mangrove snake :
Not evaluated by IUCN, this species is abundant in the north Australian coast as well as South East Asia.

HorseShoe Crabs (Tachypleus gigas & Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) are both data deficient species (IUCN) and a Wildlife Insititute of India report states that they are found all along the east coast of India from Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal.(

It appears that this study seems to have been conducted in a hurried manner, and hence lacking scientific credibility.

Regardless of these two reports and the related media campaign, we at the Dhamra Port Company Ltd., are extremely serious regarding our responsibility towards the environment and are associating with the IUCN for helping implement a sound environment management of the best global standards.

This project has received Environment clearance on 4th January 2000, vide OM No. PD/26017/8/98-PDZ(CRZ) from the Ministry of Shipping and Transport, the environment clearance was granted after stringent and due scrutiny by the Empowered Committee for Environmental Clearances of MOST over a period of two years. Further in a separate judicial process (Appeal No. 1 of 2000), the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA) upheld this clearance and the clearance process in a detailed judgement (7th May, 2000).

We implore the reader to contact us directly for any further information required on this subject.

a presentation by


Anonymous said...

Hi u have not talked about the environmental impact that the lighting would have on the turtle hatchlings. As per the DPCL statement there are islands which creates barrier for the light however the IUCN report clearly states that the normal light required for a such a port would disorient the turtles and would perhaps be the biggest threat to the olive ridleys. Moreover the dredging, the pollution from the ships all could damage the fragile ecosystem. Tata atleat if not DPCL being a signatory to the global compact is supposed to follow the precautionary principle instead of the mitigation approach it is taking.

Amit said...

Olive ridley turtles are totally safe from the construction of dhamra port. As this port has received all the environmental clearance from Gov. So the agency which are opposing the dhamra port project, should stop. This port project is coming with lots of new things in Orissa. People are getting much benefit from this port construction like free computer education, free health campaign, awareness of olive ridley turtles etc.

deeksha said...


I strongly to the point that Environmental clearance has been given by the government and after closely observing the actions used by Greenpeace, I feel something fishy about this NGO organization.

When there is a distance of about 25 kms.? there shouldn't be any harm for the mating of turtles. Then what is the problem with Greenpeace?

1. Is this so called "Globally recognized NGO" trying to stop the developments of the Orissa state?

2. has this something to do with the the competitors of TATA?

3. Are they trying to be in media all the time and grab attention of public and other businessmen?

4. Or is through this issue, do they have something to do with the politicians or the Government?

There are many such questions rolling around my mind but, there is one basic truth existing. If Greenpeace succeeds in stopping the port construction, the locals people of the orissa are the losers. They have been dreaming about earning some good money and living life if the port comes into existence. I wish may their dreams come true and let orissa cherish with riches and prosperity.