Posted by : Sravanthi Rallabandi, Sajith Sreedharan on January 18th, 2020 in Sustainable Environmental Solutions
The Government of India is focused on boosting the performance of the country’s logistics sector. One effective way of doing this is of course leveraging the country’s 7,500 km-long coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways and the multiple strategic locations that are already present along key international maritime trade routes. In keeping with this ambition, the ‘Sagarmala’ project was envisioned and initiated. The project, launched in 2015, aims to accelerate port-led infrastructure development in the country. Along the way, it expects to create 1 crore new jobs (including 40 lakh direct jobs) over the next 10 years. The project has a unique approach in that it that integrates various projects that are usually stand-alone. These projects cover port connectivity, freight expressways, new pipelines for transporting crude and petroleum products, inland waterways, multi-modal logistics hubs and coastal community development. The Sagarmala programme seeks to unlock the huge potential inherent in India’s waterways and coastline to minimise infrastructure investments that still meet the target.
The concepts of Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs), Coastal Economic Units (CEUs), Port-Linked Industrial & Maritime Clusters and Smart Industrial Port Cities have also been introduced. 14 Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs) and 29 Coastal Economic Units (CEUs) will cover nine States and Union Territories. In addition, about 30 port-linked industrial clusters will be established across three sectors: Energy, Materials and Discrete Manufacturing. The clusters include 9 bulk clusters for basic input industries such as Power, Refining & Petrochemicals and Cement, and 21 discrete manufacturing clusters in the labour- intensive sectors of Electronics, Apparel, Leather Products, Furniture, Food Processing etc.
The Sagarmala project also seeks to have a direct socio-economic element. It intends to stimulate coastal community development through marine-related activities including fisheries and maritime tourism. Cruise and lighthouse tourism are also being actively considered as ways of developing the communities along India’s coastline.
The Sagarmala is an ambitious pan-national project that promises sustainable development. Nonetheless, it has so far been silent on the issues of waste management and recycling which are important elements of sustainability. The project – if not well-managed – will have significant environmental impact on both land and water. Waste will be generated that will lead to marine and coastal pollution and threaten biodiversity and bio-productivity. This has the potential to threaten the livelihood of local fishing communities. Therefore, protecting land and water resources from the waste generated by the Sagarmala project is of utmost importance. It is vital to include responsible, well-engineered solid waste disposal systems as well as wastewater management systems. In fact, this flagship project would be incomplete without a holistic approach to ensure that sustainable systems are put in place early.
With 9 basic input industries and 21 discrete manufacturing clusters, a broad range of waste types will be generated, including plastics, e-waste, chemical waste, biodegradable waste and leather waste. A decentralised network of recycling parks or material recovery facilities – aligned with a ‘circular economy’ or 6R (Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repaid) approach – could be the ‘silver bullet’ required to effectively manage these wastes. Of course, a detailed feasibility study will be needed to understand the production and consumption patterns of the waste generated, and subsequently develop a sustainable waste management plan. With a clear focus on safeguarding the environment, these initiatives will surely contribute to the safe development of new jobs while also improving the livelihoods of the communities the project is meant to target.
Urban Planner and MD, Imbyzmo Consulting
Civil Engineer and MD, Eka Infra Consultants