Ports: The New Frontier in the Development War in Odisha

May 22, 2012


By Ranjana and Nigam

This article investigates an important aspect of the ongoing land grab in the mineral rich areas in Orissa: acquisition of land for Ports. Forcible acquisition of coastal land in Chaumukh, Balasore district, and its implication for the local population and their livelihood are discussed in detail. The particular focus of this report is the Subarnarekha Port at Kirtania, Balasore district, encircled in red in the map above. The Orissa government’s new policy to give rapid clearance to such infrastructural development is analysed and critiqued. A list of ports notified by the government of Orissa, many appearing in the above map, along with names of corporations, is given at the end.– Ed.

Chaumukh, a village visited by continuous depredations of both nature and human beings for the last 60 years so, is as if, on the run always.

Each time the Subarnarekha river, running to the north of the village, is flooded, a parcel from the village is washed away into it. The affected people, with whatever little they can recover from the mouth of Subarnarekha, move further up towards the coastal forest area in the south. They clear a patch of the new area, try to build a home, to plant a few coconut trees, to plant a few betel vines to survive and to create a new life and carry on. Each time they lose something to Subarnarekha, but what is not lost is their sense of being rooted.

They did feel uprooted two decades ago when the National Missile Testing Range was proposed to be set up in their area in the 1980s. They were part of the larger resistance covering 127 villages of that area that finally succeeded in getting the project stalled. The people of the area had breathed a sigh of relief after a long battle of 6 years. Now again, they are going to be uprooted for the proposed Subarnarekha port to be constructed by Creative Port Development Pvt. Ltd., Chennai. And the resistance has begun against it. Having seemingly won a battle against the setting up of the missile testing range in the Baliapal block of Balasore district of Odisha in the late 80s, the same people are pitted against a bigger war today. It is the war of development — that is engulfing the majority poor of Odisha’s SC, ST and dalit communities that have been self-reliant without any attention from the government whatsoever in the last few decades.

This war has intensified in the mineral-rich hinterland of Odisha, since 90s. To extract minerals and to set up mineral-based industries, people are being uprooted from the villages, jungles destroyed, mountains razed to the ground, streams and rivers being polluted. To export those minerals and to import materials for those industries, ports are being constructed along the 480 km coastline of Odisha from Bahuda Mouth in Ganjam district to Subarnarekha Mouth in Balasore district. So the war zone is expanding to the mainland, the coastal Odisha.

To develop these minor and intermediate ports, the Govt. of Odisha has formulated a Port Policy. Some features of it are:-

a) To implement the policy Orissa Maritime Board (OMB) will be formed through State Legislation. It will act as a single window agency for development of ports and inland waterways.

b) Private participation in the ports will be facilitated either through I.C.B (International Competitive Bidding) or M.OU. The OMB will enter into MOUs and Concession Agreements with the approval of Govt. of Orissa.

c) Port locations are to be given on Build, Own, Operate, Share and Transfer (BOOST), Or on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) or on Build, Own and Operate (BOO) basis.

d) The cost of private land acquisition shall be borne by the developer. However, this cost shall be compensated during the concession period, by adjusting the same, against the future revenue streams that would accrue to the Government/OMB.

e) Government of Orissa/Orissa Maritime Board’s equity participation will be restricted to 11% in order to insulate port management from interference.

f) The private developer is granted the exclusive rights to develop the project, operate and maintain it and collect fees/tariffs or charges for cost recovery for a finite period of 25-30 years.

Of these 15 ports, the process to develop Subarnarekha Port at Kirtania is underway for which Chaumukh village/Gram Panchayat will be displaced in the first phase. The affected people are also in hope of active solidarity with other movements and concerned sections in the country. We visited the area on April 2 and 3 and feel the dire need to share this information with a larger public.


Chaumukh near Subarnarekha mouth is around 13-14km away from the block headquarter Baliapal and 70 km from the district headquarter Balasore. One gets the feel of the area as one goes from Baliapal to Chaumukh. On both sides of road, there are vast stretches of flowering kharif paddy fields and the air is heady with its smell. Gradually, the motorable road vanishes into a narrow, snaky, sandy village road and the air gets cooler (though the temperature would be around 40 degree Celsius). Betel vines, betel nut, cashew, coconut, mango trees along the village road form a leafy canopy and the sun rays hardly touch the village road.

According to 2001 Census, the population of the village is 7155. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes constitute 7.3% (523) and 3.8% (269) respectively of the total population. The literacy rate is 71.4%, well above the state average. Majority of the population are involved in agriculture and some people belonging to SCs do the fishing in the river Subarekha and the sea for livelihood. It is such fertile areas that people with some pride often say, “we produce everything we need except kerosene, salt and clothes” and they remember, “during the struggle against Missile Test Range, the Govt. cut off kerosene supply to harass us”. However, many people, mostly the SCs and STs do not have record of rights though they have been living there for decades. Some families have got land from the Bhoodan Samiti. The dependence of people on the land and the sea for livelihood runs across each and every village lane and hamlet, even for the poorest of them. Today, they are getting more resolved to give a tough fight as they see no option of survival for themselves or their progeny.


The government of Odisha signed an MOU on 18th December 2006 and entered into a Concession Agreement on 11th January 2008 with the Creative Port Development Pvt. Ltd., Chennai to establish an all-weather multi-purpose port at Kirtania (Bhogarai block) on the Northern side of the mouth of River Subarnarekha on Build, Own, Operate, Share and Transfer (BOOST) basis. However, for unmentioned reasons, it has been shifted to Chaumukh and the port has been named as Subarnarekha Port. Regarding shifting of the place, the Subarnarekha Port adviser P.K. Singh clarifies, “The agreement was signed to construct a port around 5 km. radius of the mouth of Subarnarekha River. As the DPR (Detailed Project Report) pointed out many difficulties to construct port at Kirtania, it was shifted to Chaumukh and the state Govt has been informed of this at the time of signing Concession Agreement”. However, name of Kirtania is there in the Concession Agreement.

The port authority in a press conference at Balasore has said, “there was an apprehension that the mouth of the river would have been, gradually, silted, had there been a port at Kirtania. As a result, more than 2 lakh people of Basta, Baliapal and Bhogarai blocks of Balasore district would have been affected by artificial flood. The large mangrove forest on the side of Kirtania would have been destroyed and this would cause the danger of indirect flood and havoc. For this, the tourist beach at Talsasari and Digha would have been affected” (The Samaj, 25th October 2010, Balasore- report by Satyasiba Das- Subarnarekha port a hindrance to Bichitrapur).

However, the Executive Summary(October 2010) of the Environment Impact Assessment(EIA) Study for Subarnarekha Port Pvt. Ltd.(SPPL) done by L&T Ramboll mentions “the proposed Subarnarekha Port site is located near the mouth of the Subarnarekha River, which is South-East of Chaumukh village”. As regards the land requirement for the port, it says, “SPPL has applied for government non-forest land of about 1215.43 acres with a stretch of about 9 km long waterfront near the mouth of Subarnarekha”. As per the Brochure of the Subarnarekha Port Private Limited, 1215.43 acres land (100% Govt.) is required for the construction of 1st phase of the port. No additional land will be required for 2nd and 3rd phase construction and if need be, it would be expanded towards sea. The EIA study says, “ the land proposed for the Subarnarekha Port is government non-forest land and about 251 numbers of encroachers are there on the earmarked land”. However, “the D.F.O.(Wild Life) Division, Balasore raised objection that 100 acres of casurinas’ plantation having average plant of 1000 trees per hector is coming within the alienation land of Subarnarekha Port. He requested to advise Port authority not to take up any work without obtaining Forest and Environment clearance from Govt. of India”(Minutes of the Review meeting on matters of Subarnarekha Port at Chaumukh Baliapal of Balasore by the Collector Balasore held on 13-12-2011).

It is also important to note that Land Schedule prepared for 1215.43 acres of land does not mention of forest land. But Upakula Vittamati Surakshya Committee, the organization leading the protest against the proposed port, in its representation dated 30-04-2011 to Union Minister Forest & Environment has mentioned about 700 acres of forest land and this by and large tallies with Belabhumi (Beach land) kisam land shown in the Land Schedule. It seems that the EIA Study and the Govt. of Odisha Land Schedule do not deliberately show forest land in the earmarked area just to avoid implementing the provisions of Forest Rights Act.

Out of the earmarked land for port, 387.98 acres constitute Bhoodan land. Some of it has been distributed to landless people, mainly SCs and STs, and some land is being used for common purpose.

An area of 1565.93 acre (1304.05 acre private land and 261.88 acre Govt. land) is going to be acquired for 40 km long and 100 meter wide road/rail corridor connecting the port to Haldipada Station. For this, 98 families will be affected by being displaced.

The Upakula Vittamati Surakshya Committee feels that the land requirement for the port would be more because when the port was first declared to be at Kirtania the requirement was 10000 acres in May 2008; then it was reduced to 8500 acres in October 2008 and again to 4200 acres in August 2009. Whatever may be the land requirement, people of 4 GPs (Chaumukh, Dagara, Betagadia and Aladiha) would be largely affected by the present proposed port. Secondly, around 40 thousand fishermen of 9 GPs will lose their traditional source of livelihood because of the 9 Km waterfront that would be under the control of Port and would be a prohibited area. Thirdly, the proposed rail/road corridor would block the natural water channels and will cause severe flood and water logging problem in the 4 Blocks of Northern Balasore.

Neither the EIA Study in its Social Impact Assessment nor the Govt. of Odisha provides clear information as to how many people will be directly or indirectly affected by this project. However, the EIA executive summary takes note of the socio-economic condition of 72,591 people in the study area. On the other hand, as regards the employment opportunity of the project it says, “ employment potential during construction phase and operational phase is estimated to be 1500 and 350 persons respectively”.


As usual, the MOU was signed surreptitiously and local people were kept in dark about the project. The MOU was signed in December 2006 and Concession Agreement in 2008, that too for a port at Kirtania. But the local people had no knowledge how and when it was shifted to Chaumukh. People got to know about the project only when the eviction notice was served during the early months of 2010. Then they started organizing themselves under the banner of Upakula Vittamati Suraksya Committee and did not allow the survey team that had appeared in the village in early October. Then onwards, things took violent turns. The resisting population had to face violence repeatedly at the hands of pro-port local elements and the state machinery. It has been a tactic by the company to lure away some local elements and to set them against the people who are opposing it. In Odisha, we have seen it in Kashipur, Lanjigarh, Kalinga Nagar and now in the POSCO area.

On October 10, 2010, some people of the area got news of a survey team arriving there at around 11 O’ clock in the morning. Conch shells were blown to alert others (it was a popular tactic used by people in Baliapal whenever Govt. officials entered the area). And immediately, some 250-300 people including 30 women with small children gathered at the Chaumukh school and peacefully sat on a dharna. Women slept on the road not to allow the survey team headed by the port adviser Shri P.K.Singh. He had come with 40 youths including the Sarpanch of Dagara Panchayat. All were on motor cycles. The Sarpanch of Chaumukh was also there. On consultation with him, the Committee decided that the matter would be discussed with the Tahasildar, Baliapal and port adviser P.K. Singh after Dussera. It was intimated to the Tahasildar and he agreed to it. He himself also intimated this to P.K.Singh. However, Mr. Singh without listening to Tahasildar ordered his brigade to run the motor cycle over the women sleeping on the road. Then the youths accompanying the port adviser rushed towards women using filthy language and dragged them by their hair, tore down their sarees and blouses and some even beat them with the bamboo sticks picked up from the fences and with their shoes. A child of one and half years old was pulled from his mother’s lap and thrown to the thorny fences. (FIR dated 10-10-2010 lodged by Shri Laxmikanta Khatua, President of the Committee). P. K. Singh was heard encouraging the hired hoodlums to kill ten and he would look after the matter. On the other hand, women’s efforts of resistance were made mockery of and some were subject to molestation. The goons openly threatened them with sexual violence for daring to rebel. A few women were chased indoors and beaten up. In this incident 10 women were injured and they were admitted into Community Health Centre, Baliapal. Some elderly women were still complaining of pain when we met them in April 2012. Shri Laxmikanta Khatua, President of the Committee, lodged an FIR in Baliapal police station on the same day. However, local people say that action has not yet been taken against the culprits.

After the Dussera festival, the Tahsildar did not come forward for any discussion as promised. Rather, the people went to meet the District Collector and invited him to come to the area to see for himself the real ground situation. However, he flatly denied to come. Neither did the district administration conduct any palli sabha/gram sabha to elicit people’s opinion about the project.

On the other hand, a people’s hearing was suddenly announced on 30th December without much prior notice. Even, the venue chosen by the administration was some private land. The local people immediately got together to demand that a due process be followed for the organizing of the people’s hearing. Almost 3000 people gathered to oppose the tribunal that had been foisted on them in this clandestine manner. Around 500 women and children were sitting in the front with the men folk and youth behind them. They had put three chairs on the road with photographs of Subash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Jagannath. The intimidation by the administration began in the presence of the Collector and SP, Balasore and Director, State Pollution Control Board. The police began to rough up people and tossed away the photographs of the people’s cherished idols. What followed was gruesome violence on a peaceful protest of unarmed people. More than a hundred people were injured most grievously but only some could be taken to the hospital. Even as they were completing the first aid etc, the police picked up 29 people, including 10 women. Even some relatives escorting the people were arrested. They were confined for 45 days. There was too much fear to go to the hospital or even file an FIR. Yet, the people shared with us the prescriptions and medication given to them in the hospital that they have carefully kept as record.

Clandestine MOUs, arbitrary tribunals, sexual violence against women, use of hired goondas, illegal arrests and clamp down on people’s meetings have become the order of the day in many parts of Odisha as elsewhere. Meanwhile, the adivasi Bhoodan land grantees, on behalf of the villagers of Chaumukh, have filed an injunction suit against the alienation of Bhoodan land. Apparently, the land acquisition process has stopped for the time being. But, the destruction of livelihood of thousands and thousands of peasants and fishermen and ecological devastation of the entire coastal belt of Odisha for these proposed ports is looming large.


Below is a list of ports notified by the Govt. of Odisha. For more details from a Statist perspective, click here for a document entitled “Port Scenario in Orissa”, published by the Commerce and Transport Department, Govt. of Orissa [PDF, 67 pages].

1. Gopalpur Port, Ganjam district, operationalised. Investment: Rs. 1250 crore, first phase. Corporations: Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) 60% share, Orissa Stevedores, 40% share.

2. Bahuda Muhan Port, (Sonepur) Ganjam district. “Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), which had evinced interest to set up a port at the same location, had proposed to construct it with a capital investment of Rs 1,424.4 crore…Besides JSPL and Paradip Port Trust (PPT), several other investors, including couple of steel companies whose projects are in the pipeline in the state, have shown interest to develop a port at the same area“.

3. Palur Port, Ganjam district. Chennai based MARG which proposed to set up a Rs 1050 crore port at Palur, 9 km north of Gopalpur, has converted its project into a captive venture for its Rs 6,550 crore ship building and repairing unit to come up at the location.

5. Bali Harchandi Port, near Puri. Investment: Rs. 856 crore. Corporation: Puri Port Ltd, a joint venture between Century Ply and the Shyam group.

6. Astaranga Port, Puri. Investment: Rs. 600 crore. Corporation: Hyderabad-based Navayuga Engineering Co.

7. Jatadhari Muhan Port, Jagatsinghpur district. “POSCO-India Pvt Ltd has evinced interest for setting up a captive port with an investment of Rs 5000 core at Jatadhari Muhan of Jagatsinghpur.” – Source: Odishanow.

8. Barunei Muhan Port, Kendrapada district. “London-based ArcelorMittal, Jamshedpur-based Adhunik Metaliks, Chennai-based SPI Ports Ltd, Chennai-based Sical Logistics and Mumbai-based Mundra Port & Special Economic Zone had evinced interest in setting up a port at Barunei Muhan…the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is understood to have quashed the proposal, citing that the present location is a threat to the mass nesting site of Olive Ridley turtles.” – Business Standard, Oct 2011

9. Dhamra Port, Bhadrakh district. Operationalised. “Dhamara Port Company Ltd (DPCL), a 50:50 joint venture between Tata Steel and Larsen & Toubro (L&T), is the biggest investor, with its investment till the second quarter of 2011-12 standing at Rs 3,570.35 crore.” – Business Standard, Nov 2011.

10. Chudamani Port, Bhadrakh district. Corporation: Essel Mining, Aditya Birla Group. “The first phase of the Chudamani Port project is being developed at a cost of about Rs 600 crore, as a captive port for the use of the Aditya Birla Group companies as a gateway to Odisha and Jharkhand, to reduce logistics cost and dependency on external agencies for export / import and coastal cargo movement.

11. Inchudi Port, Balasore district.

12. Chandipur Port, Balasore district.

13. Bahabalpur Port, Balasore district. “For Bahabalpur…five companies were interested to build ports including IL&FS Infrastructure Ltd, Dharti Dredging Ltd, GMR Infrastructure Ltd, NSL Orissa Power & Infratech Ltd and Mundra Port & SEZ Ltd.

14. Subarnarekha mouth (Kirtania) Port, Balasore district. Covered in the present article.

15. Talasara (Bichitrapur) Port, Balasore district. “The move for notification assumes importance as JSW Infrastructure Limited (JSWIL), part of O P Jindal group, having interest in steel, aluminium, cement, power, minerals and infrastructure, has proposed the Orissa government to develop a deep water port at Bichitrapur (Talsara) in Balasore district at an investment of Rs 2400 crore.” – Business Standard, Nov 2009.


3 Responses to “Ports: The New Frontier in the Development War in Odisha”

  1. Raju Dutta Says:
    May 28th, 2012 at 13:06

    Shamhoty’r pashya amar acchi…

  2. pradip kar Says:
    June 12th, 2012 at 03:56

    In the class divided society, the peoples resistance will be continue until the classless society will form. Our moral support to them who doing their protest against their livelihood.
    Pradip kar

  3. siddharth Says:
    June 18th, 2012 at 22:32

    I fail to understand why W.Bengal and bengali people are so concerned about the incidents occurring in Orissa. When ever a big project takes off its quite natural that it would require lots of land for implementing it.And its obvious that some of the people who are settled in a place would resist being replaced somewhere else. If each and every projects gets scrapped due to a handful of people’s resistance, then the growth of the entire state is going to be stalled. Orissa has a coastline of more than 450kms. but has only a single major port, as compared to other states having multiple major ports and many minor ports. Bengal was even concerned when Dhamra Port was set up, and this was because they perceived it a threat to ports of W. Bengal. Now now Bengalis a resisting other port developments in Orissa. Orissa now requires to upgrade its infrastructure including ports, to cater the needs of its industries and continue the momentum of industrial growth.

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