Environmentalists have stoutly opposed the construction of the proposed Dharma port in Orissa. According to Banka Behari Das, an eminent environmentalist in the state, the government should not allow the construction of the port, unless it gets specific clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MEF).

Das has sent a letter to Union environment and forest minister, saying that the port lies in the forest range as well as in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). This is why it becomes necessary to get forest and CRZ clearance from the Union government before taking up the project. The environmentalist has demanded a strict environment impact study for the project. It is because the famous Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary (proposed national park) and the Gahirmatha beach known to be the largest rookery of endangered Olive Ridley turtles is located across the site, on river Dharma (Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 2).

Environmentalists have charged that the Orissa government is making an attempt to exclude the sanctuary area falling within the proposed port site from the Bhitarkanika sanctuary. Das says that it is an objectionable exercise and even if undertaken would require permission of the Union government. There is a primitive port at the place which had become defunct. Since the old port was non-functional, the government, a few years ago, set up a fishing harbour at Dharma.

The proposed port of Dharma will be at a distance of about eight kilometres downstream of the existing fishing harbour. So it is outside the existing port limit. In such circumstances, Das says, the MEF is the competent authority under CRZ notification and under Environment and Forest laws to give the environment clearance. Earlier, a Biju Janata Dal legislator had objected to the setting up of the proposed port.

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