Sustainable development of ports paradigm is gaining momentum, albeit slowly among Indian ports. But to speed up the movement, a holistic approach with suitable legislation, more driving forces, incentives and involvement of all stakeholders are essential, writes Janaki Krishnamoorthi.
Ports as commercial infrastructures play a significant role in a country's trade and economy. However, port development and operation also have their own negative impact on ecology and environment. This facet has been receiving active attention in recent years due to increasing global concern over environmental issues like pollution, Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climatic change and resource depletion etc. Worldwide, it has now been recognised that ports' economic growth must be balanced with sustainability and environmental protection. As a result, development of green ports has been gaining ground.
However in India, where the port industry has been witnessing phenomenal growth, the road to green ports is still a long way off. The reasons are not hard to find - the industry's nascent stage, low awareness levels, lack of concern for environment, lack of mandatory stipulations and motivational incentives.
"As per current regulations and laws relating to Indian maritime sector, there is no specific mandate that a port should employ only sustainable development methods in port operations and development activities," avers Saibal K De, Director & Chief Executive Officer, IL&FS Maritime Infrastructure Company (IMICL), "As the industry matures, or even becomes comparable to European and other benchmark ports, coupled with such demand from the port users, there will be a visible shift towards sustainable development."
Seconds Dr Ir PV Chandramohan, President - Technical, Navayuga Engineering Company (NECL), "Low awareness and lack of concern for environment are the major reasons. In developed countries, there are stringent rules but the main driving factor is their concern for the environment and awareness about its ill-effect on their health. Once we realise that our lack of concern for the environment would affect the health of our near and dear ones, the attitude will change." NECL is the EPC contractor for Krishnapatnam Port and flagship company of CVR Group, the promoters of Krishnapatnam Port.
Hyderabad-based CVR Group has undertaken several green initiatives at Krishnapatnam Port including development of green belts, protection and development of mangroves, rainwater harvesting, reuse of treated water, development of sewage treatment plant, mechanical dust suppression with water sprinklers at cargo storage yards, mechanised cargo handling especially dust generating cargoes through covered conveyors, deploying mechanical road sweeping equipment etc.
IMICL too looks at environmental issues while developing ports says De, "The environmental and social issues are identified and addressed. For instance, in one of our projects, the earmarked waterfront included a river mouth and adjoining lands, some of which are utilised by fishermen for their occupation. During our layout plan, we excluded the river mouth and other such areas as an environmental and social issue mitigation measure." De also informs that during the sixth Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2013, of the 63 MoUs for the development of Gujarat ports, eight were signed towards development of Green ports. But such positive initiatives are few and far between compared to the enormous negative impact the ports have on ecology and marine life.
The area of concerns in this regard are at various levels, from development, expansion, operational activities of the port including vessel and cargo handling operations, port extension projects and hinterland accessibility. Emissions of dust from bulk cargo handling, gases from cargo handling equipment and trucks, GHG emission from transportation of cargo to the hinterland etc, adversely affect air quality. Dredging and other civil works required for upgrading access infrastructure may lead to alteration of the sea floor having a disruptive impact on marine ecosystems.
Water pollution from ballast water, fuel, oil residue and waste disposal from ship operations, cargo residue and their effects on marine ecosystems, natural habitats located around port waters is another major concern. It is more grave when accidents occur causing oil spill.
"Conventional port operations, as known by the industry, have to worry about a lot of environmental and social issues" concedes De, "Air and water pollution which includes pollution from ships, GHG emissions, production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone, dust and particulate emission, discharge of wastes, ships' ballast water and sediments, carriage and handling of hazardous and noxious substances, dredging and disposal of dredged materials etc."
Improper waste disposal from port operations, industrial activities, construction and expansion projects including hazardous wastes, disposal from vessels is another major category of environmental externality. In addition, port development is often followed by other activities such as the location of industries, power plants, railway lines, highways, hotels, Special Economic Zones, residential complexes and so on, all of which also affect the environment. All these concerns have created a pressing need to focus on sustainable development and operation of ports where economic progress and sustainability go hand in hand.
Now comes the pertinent question - who should take the initiative to move towards sustainable development of ports? The drivers for port investments in environmental performance vary from regulatory compliance, response to societal pressures, corporate conscience to gaining competitive advantage. Regulatory compliance however tops the list. Motivating with an incentive pricing and punishing with penalty is considered as an effective tool.
Internationally, it is the government or law makers who have taken the lead through necessary legislation. Though some of the aspects are covered under international laws, every country has to formulate its own rules and regulations.
"Since vessels ply the open seas without being curbed by political boundaries, they are subjected to international regulations," reveals Dr Chandramohan. "Marine discharges are governed by these international rules. And they are applicable in our ports as well. Every port in the country has arrangement for collection and treatment of bilge water. Discharges like sewages are not let out into the sea. These are treated on board."
"There are international protocols on ballast and other aspects of pollution caused by ships," confirms Santoshkumar Mohapatra, Chief Executive Officer, Dhamra Port, "As far as Indian ports are concerned, the policies governing environmental clearance and CRZ take care of the environmental requirements, comprehensively."
Indian Government's Maritime Agenda 2010û2020 has also identified environmental sustainability as one of the priority areas in its drive towards green ports with specific focus on designation of Emission Control Areas for specific parts of coastal waters, designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, marine disaster and oil pollution response mechanism, use of non-conventional sources of energy for lighthouses and aids to navigation, promotion of building of green ships, etc. But these are not adequate, opine some industry professionals who urge the need to have special policy to promote green governance. "While booth the Central and state governments have been framing policies and laws, they have primarily been preventive and precautionary. There are no specific policies to encourage green activities," states De. "Like the Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) for Indian mining, there should be a comprehensive and extensive SDF for ports sector too, with level playing field, starting with project planning and development."
Equally important are the creation of positive drivers like tax exemption, subsidies, rewarding clean ships and operators, offering a discount in vessel related charges for 'green ships' that enter ports, (a prevalent practice at some major international ports). Dr Chandramohan suggests that ports going for green concepts should be compensated suitably and encouraged with incentives including carbon credits.
"The implementation in India does not happen unless you incentivise or penalise" maintains BVJK Sharma, Joint Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, JSW Infrastructure. "The government cannot penalise because they are not in a position to. For instance, the government cannot penalise for not using CNG because they have to first make sufficient CNG available. There are no incentives in India either for green ports. If you are declared as a green port with proper certification, may be you can claim some international carbon credits or get some foreign investment but within India there is no incentive."
Any green measures should also contribute to the commercial aspect as evinced by De, "It should also be strategic to a developer since it affects the developer's core business, its growth, profitability and even survival. So any green measure should contribute to the commercial aspect in improving economic performance starting with development stage and moving on to operating stage. The concept of sustainability need not be disparate and conflicting to the business itself."
The measures Voluntary initiatives can also come from port developers and operators as they ultimately benefit from them too. Benefits accruing from green ports include expedited environmental clearances, more traffic as compared to non-green ports particularly from developed countries and improved performance levels in the long run.
De lists out some of the benefits, "Implementation of green concepts could positively affect project parameters during development. Best practices followed during design, engineering, and procurement stages can bring about accrued benefits over the long term. They can also reduce life cycle cost for equipment, contingency costs on account of implementation. And when there is a demand for "Green Port" label, the port would get positioned better over other competing ports".
There are ample areas and opportunities available where green concepts can be introduced like using alternative marine power, cold ironing, hybrid tugs, use of electric cranes, mechanisation of cargo handling operations, using dust suppression systems, switching over to non-conventional energy sources, using CNG fitted vehicles, water harvesting, forestation etc.
For instance, Dhamra Port associated with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), world's leading organisation in environment for help and guidance, has adopted some innovative practices, for the first time in India. Elaborates Mohapatra, "We have attached deflectors to dredgers to avoid marine catch and dark sky-friendly lighting which prevents glare in the sky - something which can for example disorient turtles during hatching. Besides, the port is without a breakwater with berths raised on pillars in the sea itself to avoid interference with free flow" No doubt, sustainable development of ports paradigm is gaining momentum, albeit slowly and in differing degrees among Indian ports. But to speed up the movement, a holistic approach with suitable legislation, more driving forces, incentives and involvement all stakeholders are essential.