Dhamra Port Case Study

IUCN
Published: 30 October 2018
Last edited: 23 November 2018
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Summary

The story of Dhamra Port is the story of a major corporation and a global environmental organization working together to ensure that the construction of a large deep sea industrial port in India would not harm a significant population of endangered sea turtles. From a development perspective, the site was perfect. But from a conservation perspective there were questions about its location close to one of the world’s largest nesting site of the Olive Ridley turtle, protected under Indian law. The collaboration between DPCL-Dhamra Port Company Limited (then a joint venture between Tata Steel and L&T) and IUCN shows that development and conservation can co-exist, and that there are ways to develop in a responsible manner that meets both the needs of people and the needs of nature. Lessons learned from this partnership can be applied to other projects that will have similar positive outcomes for people and for nature.

Classifications

Region
South Asia
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Beach
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Seagrass
Other ecosystem
urban marine
Theme
Infrastructure maintenance
Maritime transport
Science and research
Species management
Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
Hazards addressed
Loss of biodiversity
Sustainable development goals
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Business engagement approach

Location

Odisha, India

Challenges

The major challenge to this project was ensuring the success and continuity of safeguards to protect turtles from being severely impacted by port construction and ensuing long-term port activities. However, there were other challenges related to the desired behavior change. These included:

  • Resistance of concerned actors to the project; and
  • Reputational risk for key stakeholders.

In terms of ensuring the protection of Olive Ridley populations in the long-term, enhancing community awareness about the importance of turtles was also important, including changing community fishing practices that contributed to turtle mortality.

Beneficiaries

  • DPCL
  • Tata Steel
  • IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
  • Fishers and local communities
  • Olive Ridley Turtle population

 

How do the building blocks interact?

Through the three project building blocks, a holistic solution toward the challenge of balancing development with conservation was reached. While each block addressed a different aspect of the project, the combination of all these helped to consolidate mutual trust and collaboration among the stakeholders and actors, enabling engagement, dialogue and understanding for both the short term outcome and for long-term sustainability.

Impacts

As a result of the partnership and with assistance from IUCN, DPCL drafted an Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The EMP addresses regulations, policy, planning, implementation, operations and management as well as quality assurance and monitoring. It details the procedures needed for change management, and the development of a corporate culture that prioritizes safety, environmental protection and the promotion of positive community relations.

 

To fund ongoing research and intervention, a trust, proposed by IUCN, is being established to support long-term conservation in the area. DCPL and IUCN have now initiated the process of establishing the “Dhamra Conservation Trust”. The Trust will focus on turtle conservation along the coastline of Odisha; improving the quality of life through alternative livelihoods; promoting opportunities for women; and empowering villagers.

 

On the broader scale, the project has led to a deeper understanding among private, public and civil society actors that much can be done to address both development and environment at the same time, in a sustainable manner, using good science. The outcomes of the project are changing perceptions not just on the business side on environmental sustainability, but also on the side of environmental organizations about the role they can play in enabling similar breakthroughs in sustainable business practices.

Story

Early on, several environmental organizations in India voiced strong opposition to the development of the port. Fortunately, Tata Steel was committed to establishing whether a port could be built in this area without harming the turtles.

 

IUCN accepted that this was a challenging engagement from the beginning. There were many criticisms and misunderstandings, including accusations from external bodies and from NGO members within IUCN, which clouded the discussion. There were also factual gaps and misinformation about the potential impact of port development.

 

“Many in the IUCN India National Committee felt that since the port was going to be built anyway it was important to provide scientific advice if possible. However several members did voice serious opposition to IUCN’s engagement with the port at all,” recalled Meena Gupta, IUCN Regional Councillor for South and East Asia.

 

There was international evidence to show it was possible for ports and turtles to coexist, provided that standard operating procedures were followed. And by mobilizing its international network of experts, IUCN could bring much needed objective science and commitment to conservation to the table. “We have a golden opportunity to engage industry and help them get it right,” said Nicolas Pilcher, co-chair IUCN Species Survival Commission - Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

 

In spite of the IUCN Council approved Business and Biodiversity Strategy mandating work with these “large footprint” industries, some IUCN Members still felt that industries – like mining – had such serious environmental consequences that IUCN should not engage with them. Some groups outside IUCN objected to the project loudly, and ran campaigns against IUCN. Others emphasized taking a long-term view, arguing that compromises were worth it, considering the potential for influencing a large-scale development project and mitigating its impact on a valued species, not to mention setting an international example.

 

Over a period of several years, the two organizations worked together through many challenges to demonstrate that development and conservation can co-exist, and that there are ways to develop in a responsible manner that meets both the needs of people and the needs of nature. Dhamra Port helped establish trust between IUCN and the Tata Group, and this led to other subsequent forms of engagement, all of which demonstrated that biodiversity protection can be a core principle of a large-footprint industry.

Contributed by

Ann Moey