Big victory for Chennai's Ennore Creek fishermen as port promises to remove encroachments

Fisherfolk have reacted saying that this is the first time in 25 years that the government has acted to protect these wetlands.
Big victory for Chennai's Ennore Creek fishermen as port promises to remove encroachments
Big victory for Chennai's Ennore Creek fishermen as port promises to remove encroachments
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In a major win for citizens against illegal industrial encroachments in Ennore Creek, the Kamarajar Port Ltd (KPL) has passed a tender for removal of dredged sand that was dumped on saltpans to convert the wetlands into real estate.

Saltpans are protected wetlands under Coastal Regulation Zone Notification and the National Wetland Rules, 2010. KPL is in possession of 637.7 acres of saltpan lands that were transferred from the Central Salt Department in March 2015.

In August 2015, the Ennore Anaithu Meenava Grama Koottamaippu (Ennore All Fisher Village Coalition) and Chennai-based Coastal Resource Centre, halted the activity, highlighting the illegallity of KPL's dumping.

In October 2016, KPL once again resumed its dumping only to be stopped by the Thiruvallur sub-collector, who was inspecting the removal of such encroachments along with fisher representatives and city-based environmentalists.

Fisherfolk have welcomed the decision saying that this is for the first time in the 25 years that they have been fighting for the creek against industrial encroachment and pollution that the Government has acted to protect these wetlands.

"What the TNPCB and state Coastal Zone Management Authority refused to do, the Thiruvallur district administration and the State Relief Commissioner are doing by getting polluters to remove their encroachments. We are thankful," said Mugatwarakuppam's A. Venkatesh, who is also a member of the Meenava Grama Kootamaippu. 

According to the CRZ Clearance granted in March 2015 to KPL's Coal Berths 3 & 4, KPL is required to dispose of dredged material within the port premises and not outside on salt lands.

"Now that salt production is suspended, the salt pans should be maintained as wetlands. This will provide flood protection for the region, and enhance the fish productivity of the creek," said R.L. Srinivasan, who is president of Kaattukuppam Fisher Cooperative Society and a member of the Meenava Grama Koottamaippu.

“The real challenge now is overseeing the removal of the dumped material, and ensuring that it is disposed of properly," said Pooja Kumar of Coastal Resource Centre. 

The fisher coalition has requested the district administration to constitute a committee with local participation to oversee remediation of the creek.

In October this year, the Tiruvallur district administration had ordered thermal power stations and industries in Ennore to dredge the silt-filled Buckingham Canal.

Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman who is familiar with the region has met the fishermen living in the area. The fishermen appealed to all right-thinking citizens to join the movement to save the Ennore Creek, which resulted in the ‘Save Ennore Creek’ campaign.

Articulating the fishermen’s thoughts, Jayaraman wrote, “As fisherfolk, we are the first in the line of fire; the degradation of the creek affects us daily. But this is no longer merely about us. The river holds the key to our shared environmental fate as a city.”

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