A decision by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the re-opening of the facility run by South West Port Ltd is critical to the Mormugao Port Trust as the Central government-run port is reeling from the ban in Goa on extracting and exporting iron ore, the port’s key cargo, according to Mormugao Port Trust chairman I Jeyakumar.

“More than 50 per cent of our revenue comes from this facility. The future of about 2,000 employees and 4,000 pensioners is at stake,” Jeyakumar told BusinessLine , adding that “pollution levels in Vasco is well within the limits. We told the GSPCB (Goa State Pollution Control Board) if pollution is within the limit and penalty provision is there for handling excess cargo, you levy penalty on South West Port, but make the terminal operational from April 1. This was rejected by GSPCB. So, we impleaded in the matter before the NGT,” Jeyakumar said making it clear that its support to South West Port was not for excess cargo handling.

“As long as pollution and dust emission are within limits, you cannot stop the project. Mormugao Port Trust has no other option. Iron ore cargo has fallen steeply and if this terminal also stops functioning, our problems will be much more than what South West Port undergoes,” Jeyakumar said.

He said that “Environment Clearance (EC) is for starting a project; once it starts operations, only consent to operate has to be renewed. So, running projects need not go to the Environment Ministry for EC at all. But GSPCB wrongly interpreted the clause and asked South West Port to go for a fresh EC...,” Jeyakumar said.

Mormugao Port Trust’s cargo throughput dropped 18.94 per cent to 26.897 million tonnes in FY18 from 33.181 mt a year earlier. Iron ore handling declined to 10.259 mt from 15.053 mt in FY17.