Vikash Sharma

Is Gopalpur Port, the oldest port in Odisha’s Ganjam district, losing its identity? Such questions have cropped up owing to frequent changes in the ownership. As per initial reports, there have been five changes in the ownership of Gopalpur Port in the last 18 years.

As a result, no major development work has been possible under the CSR initiative. It is alleged that the residents living close to Gopalpur Port, especially the fishermen community, are staring at an uncertain future owing to the construction of a jetty.

“When the port started, the company sought the support of people and we cooperated with them for the last 24 years. But nothing has been done for the labourers. Due to regular ownership change, we are facing problems,” said N. Dinabandhu, a resident of Aryapalli village.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Gopalpur Port was under the control of Odisha government prior to 2006. Later, Odisha Stevedors Limited (OSL) took over after 2006 solely and later in collaboration with other companies including Nobel and Sara group in 2006. There was a collaboration with Jindal after both companies backed out in 2011.

Similarly, Shapoorji Pallonji Group chipped in after Jindal stepped down in 2017. The Aryapalli residents alleged that there has been no proper implementation of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the jetty construction has also adversely affected their lives. The constant erosion threat also looms large over the fate of the village.

“The sea water will enter the area during high tide. Earlier, we were not facing any issue of communication but the problem has assumed serious proportions due to jetty and berth,” said M. Dilip, another local resident.

The authorities of Gopalpur Port could not be contacted over the allegations levelled by locals.

In his reaction, Odisha Commerce and Transport Minister Bibhuti Bhusan Jena said, “The frequent ownership changes appear to be deliberate and the Gopalpur Port is not being used for the welfare of the people of Ganjam. We are hearing that Adani Group will be taking over the port. As port is a medium of development, we hope that things will be streamlined soon.”

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