From constructing structures on sand dunes to releasing untreated sewer water into the sea, the illegalities by the hatcheries go unchecked, finds a report by Coastal Resource Centre.

Shrimp hatcheries near the shore
news Environment Friday, January 01, 2021 - 13:40

Hatcheries for commercially producing shrimps and select fish varieties initially started to crop up near the shores of coastal Tamil Nadu in 2003. Since then, hatcheries after hatcheries started coming up, in violation of the coastal norms. Today, around 65 along the coast of Chengalpattu and Villupuram districts of Tamil Nadu have occupied the ecologically sensitive areas, including the high tide line (HTL) and sand dunes, according to a study by the Coastal Resource Centre. These hatcheries are located on the shoreline or constructed within 200 metres from notified High Tide Line, which has, in turn, led to health and environmental hazards for the residents and the marine biodiversity.

A report published by Saravanan and Pooja Kumar of Chennai-based Coastal Resource Centre — Below The Radar — found that 65 aquaculture hatcheries do not have Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance, thus violating the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) Act and The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The RTI query by Pooja has also revealed that the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) has not provided CRZ clearance for coastal aquaculture hatcheries between 2003 and 2019.

Under the CRZ Notification, 2011, the Environment Protection Act of 1986 has notified some environmentally sensitive coastal areas as CRZ, where construction activities are prohibited. So no construction activity is allowed up to 500 metres from the HTL on the landward side and up to 100m along banks of creeks, lagoons, estuaries, backwater and rivers. The CAA Act, too, prohibits setting up all aquaculture facilities within 200 metres of the HTL, pointed out the report by Coastal Resource Centre, an organisation that offers support to coastal communities facing challenges in developmental activities.  

As per the CAA Act, the hatcheries should be set up 200 meters away from No Development Zone along the coast and the hatcheries should receive clearance under CRZ norms. However, the 65 coastal aquaculture hatcheries not only lack CRZ clearance, but 63 hatcheries are functioning within 200 meters from the notified high tide region.  

How it affects marine life and fishermen

According to the report, these hatcheries have been built on sand dunes, which are considered a CRZ-1(A) area. CRZ 1 is the most important ecologically sensitive area where no new construction is allowed. National parks, marine parks, sanctuaries and reserve forests come under CRZ-1. 

Talking about the violation, Bharathi, leader of the South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association, said, “The sand dunes in the coastal areas protect the land during natural calamities like Tsunami and high tides. However, due to the setting up of hatcheries, the sand is eroding near the sea line and it is increasing the risk of Tsunami and breach of tides. As a result, the people living near the coastline are put at risk.”

The study also found that the bridges laid by the hatcheries for the effluent disposal pipelines into the shore also affect marine life and,  in turn, the livelihood of the fishermen. “The hatcheries discharge untreated water into the sea, thus affecting marine life. The hatcheries even release sewer, which is a violation of the norms of the Pollution Control Board,” said Bharathi.

He also pointed out, “A lot of pharmaceutical waste and other medicines for aquatic animals can be observed dumped with garbage in the vicinity of the hatcheries.” 

During the study, the fishermen in the region revealed the effluents are sometimes brown in colour and release strong odour but the fisherfolk near the hatcheries do not receive any warning from the hatcheries. They are also facing limitations in using periyavalai (big net) for fishing due to the hatchery buildings that obstruct the fishing activity.

“Ever since the hatcheries came up in the region, residents have been unable to continue with paddy farming. The hatcheries remove the freshwater using commercial bores and the region now gets access only to saltwater,” said the report.

Incidentally, these irregularities, to a large extent, also gain prominence due to the scam unearthed in the Environmental Department and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, said Saravanan, the other author of the report. In October, the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC) wing seized Rs 33.73 lakh cash from the rented premises of a Joint Chief Environmental Engineer of the TNPCB in Vellore. 

"These illegalities gain particular significance in the light of the ongoing Vigilance department raids on the Environment Department and TNPCB officials. The officials responsible for the violation must be identified and prosecuted," he said.

Citing these points, the fishermen organisations and environmental activists have requested the government to take action against the hatcheries. “We have sent a representation to the department concerned and are awaiting their response,” said Saravanan. 

Bharathi urged the Tamil Nadu government to take note of the hatcheries that are functioning in violation of the CAA and CRZ guidelines. “The people who cross CAA should face consequences as per law and an inquiry should be conducted against them. The illegal constructions in violation of the CRZ rules should also be demolished.” 

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.