Mumbai: The fate of the Rs 65,545-crore Vadhavan port project in Palghar district, which was cleared by the Centre on Wednesday, hangs in the balance as Shiv Sena's role in the matter is crucial. The ball is now in CM Uddhav Thackeray's court.
In 1998, the then BJP-Shiv Sena government had given a mandate to erstwhile Peninsular and Oriental Australia Ports Pvt Ltd (now Dubai Ports World) to develop the Vadhavan project.
However, the project failed to take off following strong opposition by the Sena, which supported the local villagers who had staged protest over environmental norms, fishing dynamics and possible displacement of the fishing community.
Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray's press advisor Harshal Pradhan told FPJ: “Shiv Sena will stand with the local people if they are opposed to the Vadhavan port project. It is Sena's policy to go with the locals.”
The Vadhavan project was revived in 2015 by the Union ministry of ports after the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) signed a memorandum of understanding.
JNPT was to hold 74 per cent stake and Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) the balance 24 per cent in the proposed port project. The project did not commence despite former Union minister of ports Nitin Gadkari's clarification that not a single family will be displaced, nor will there be any land acquisition.
As per Wednesday's cabinet decision, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will be formed with Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) as the lead partner with equity participation equal to or more than 50 per cent to implement the project.
The SPV will develop the port infrastructure, including reclamation and construction of breakwater, besides establishing connectivity to the hinterland. All the business activities would be undertaken under PPP.
Furthermore, Maharashtra Koli Samaj Sangh national president Anant Tare, who is senior Shiv Sena leader from Thane district, said the Sangh will oppose the Vadhavan port project.
“The port development will adversely impact the fishing community not just around Vadhavan but in a 300-km area. The rehabilitation of the fishing community is another major issue. The Centre, therefore, should shift the project in Gujarat,” he added.