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Conservationists, marine researchers call for tighter control on ports

Demand ‘No port zones’ near eco-critical areas
New Delhi, May 21, 2010

Expressing serious concern over the proliferation of large-scale development in the vicinity of ecologically critical coastal areas, marine biologists, sea turtle researchers and conservationists have written to Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, calling on him to protect such areas by introducing effective legal safeguards. Earlier today, a petition to this effect signed by over 300 Indian and international marine biologists and conservationists(1) was handed over the Minister by Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India and Dr. Kartik Shanker of the Centre for Ecological Sciences.

The petition is backed by eleven national organizations (2) and asks that no ports be permitted within 25 km of turtle mass-nesting areas and other important feeding, migratory and refuge habitats. The other key demand is for a no-development zone for all industrial activities for at least a 10 km radius around the mass nesting beaches in Orissa. This concern was overwhelmingly expressed at the recently concluded 30th Annual Sea Turtle Symposium held in Goa at the end of April, which brought together the world’s leading international marine researchers and conservationists.

Opposition to the controversial Dhamra port in Orissa has galvanized India’s conservation community into addressing the potential environmental threats that ports and other coastal infrastructure projects pose. “Unbelievable as it is, Dhamra is just the tip of the ice berg: there are currently ports proposed at all of Orissa’s mass-nesting sites – Gahirmatha, Rushikulya and Devi. If the Centre does not step in, Orissa’s state government will be signing the death warrant for these habitats,” said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

The call for tighter controls on port locations comes at a time when Central and state governments are actively pushing the construction of ports all along India’s coast. Over 300 ports have been proposed along the coast of mainland India (3), and over 200 have already been notified.

Dr. Kartik Shanker, turtle biologist at the Centre of Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science and outgoing President of the International Sea Turtle Society said, “Fragile coastal ecosystems and artisanal fishing communities today face the same threat in terms of rampant destructive development. The challenge before government and Indian society at large is to institute mechanisms that ensure the health of the ecosystems which sea turtles, other species and fishermen rely on.”

“The recent oil spills at Gopalapur port near Rushikulya and near Paradip Port in 2009 are wake up calls. The ecological disaster unfolding from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is an example of how badly things can go wrong(4). If we continue to locate industrial infrastructure in ecologically critical areas, we will sacrifice what is left of our marine biodiversity,” said Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace India. “Minister Ramesh’s response to this petition will reflect his commitment to regulate coastal development more effectively. The consequences of inaction are empty seas and empty futures for our coastal populations” he concluded.

Notes to Editor:

1.    The petition is available at

2.    The petition was supported by the following organizations: Bombay Natural History Society, Conservation Action Trust, Dakshin, Greenpeace, Kalpavriksh, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Reefwatch Marine Conservation, Sanctuary Asia, WWF India, Wildlife Protection Society of India and Wildlife Society of Orissa.

3.    The Working Group Report on Shipping and Inland Water Transport for the Eleventh Five Year Plan, Planning Commission

4.    Refer to

For Further Information please contact:

1.    Belinda Wright, Executive Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India,
      +91-98111 90690,

2.    Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace India,

3.    Dr. Kartik Shanker, Past President, International Sea Turtle Society and Faculty,
      Indian Institute of Science, +91-99455 65935,



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