Candles lit for Ratan Tata, 70,000 ask him to save Orissa’s turtles

Press release - May 20, 2008
MUMBAI, India — Over thirty Mumbaikars, Greenpeace volunteers all, tonight lit thousands of candles on the rocks in front of Bakhtawar, Colaba, asking the building’s most famous resident, Mr. Ratan Tata, to shift his company’s upcoming port project from Dhamra in Orissa in order to save the endangered olive ridley sea turtles. The Dhamra port is being built close to the Gahirmatha beach, one of the world’s largest nesting grounds for the species.

The heat is on! Greenpeace activists light candles on behalf of 70,000 hopeful TATA customers who don’t want the port to be built at Dhamra. Will Ratan Tata see the light?

The candles symbolized the growing number (70,000 at last count) of Indians who have written to Mr. Tata asking him to relocate the port and not the turtles (1). So far there has been no response from Mr. Tata to this outpouring of public sentiment against the TATA port.

"Mr. Tata has the reputation of a reasonable man who cares for our environment", said Titus Jebaraj, Greenpeace volunteer, as he lit candles on the sea face. "People have been asking him for several years now to look for an alternative to this destructive port, in the interests of protecting one of the world's last mass nesting grounds for this enigmatic and peaceful creature, which has been around for millions more years than the TATAs have!"

The Dhamra port is coming up less than 5 km. from the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary (India's second largest mangrove forest and home to the saltwater crocodile) and less than 15 km. from the nesting beaches of the Gahirmatha Sanctuary. Conservationists and researchers have consistently raised concerns about the port's impacts on the ecology since it was first proposed in the 1990s.

Mired in controversy, the Dhamra Port area has been denied protection twice now, compromising the local environment and the Olive Ridley Turtles. Existing evidence has proved beyond doubt that turtles inhabit the off-shore waters, while the port site itself has thrown up records of rare species (2).

More recently, international banking giant BNP Paribas has confirmed to Greenpeace that it is no longer refinancing a part of the Dhamra Port. This announcement came after the bank had commissioned an unnamed independent expert to look into environmental and social aspects concerning the project. Greenpeace had advised BNP Paribas that involvement in this project would not be in keeping with the Precautionary Approach, as the environmental and social assessment was not up to international standards (3).

"Scientists are opposed to the port, conservationists are against it, international lending institutions clearly want to protect their reputations, and now thousands of Indians - TATA customers most of them - are asking Mr. Tata to place the survival of this species above increasing TATA profits. What will it take for him to listen?," asked Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace.

Close to 70,000 people have now written to Mr. Tata via a cyber action at The letter campaign comes on the heels of over 100 international scientists and turtle researchers expressing their opposition to the port. A number of Indian organizations, including the Wildlife Protection Society of Orissa and the Wildlife Society of Orissa, are also asking Mr. Tata to respect the turtles' breeding and nesting habitat and find alternatives to the port's current location.

For further information, contact

Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace India, Cell: +91 99801 99380

Saumya Tripathi, Communications Officer, Greenpeace India, Cell: 93438 62212

Notes to Editor