In a decision that environmentalists describe as 'disastrous', an Expert Appraisal Committee under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has recommended granting of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and environment clearance for the phase-3 expansion of the Kamarajar Port. This recommendation which would cause both environmental and economic damage in the region has allegedly been given on the basis of an ‘unapproved’ draft map.
The port’s proposal was approved based on a two-member sub-committee report which considered the latest draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of the Tamil Nadu Coastal Zone Management Authority prepared by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM).
This is despite CRZ Notification, 2011 which stipulated that all proposals have to be evaluated against the approved CZMP. As per the approved CZMP of 1996 the Kamarajar Port’s expansion proposal falls inside the tidal Ennore creek demarcated as a ‘No Development Zone’.
"The map in the latest draft has no legal standing and is both incorrect and incomplete," says Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre.
"A writ petition has been filed in the Madras High Court against it. The hazard lines have not been mapped and many fishing villages are excluded in it. Ecologically sensitive salt plains have also been ignored. The Environment Ministry which is well aware of this has purposely used a map which suits their convenience to give this recommendation," she alleges.
According to reports, in 2016, the port engaged the Institute of Remote Sensing (IRS) in Anna University to prepare the CRZ map as per the 2011 notification. This map is a part of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted for the proposed expansion.
"But in the last three months, people have opposed this map in public hearings across the state. The Environment ministry itself is yet to approve it," says Pooja. She alleges that the Ministry has effectively recommended the encroachment of Ennore Creek by Kamarajar Port.
How will this affect you?
If the controversial project is carried out it would mean that 1000 acres of wetlands could become industrial real estate.
Environmentalists says that this would change the natural hydrology of the creek and lead to flooding of low lying areas.
"Then, even small burst of rain are enough to flood the surrounding areas," says Pooja. Areas that could get flooded include Puluthivakkam, Vallur, Athippatu, Kathivakkam, Manali and Palavarkedu.
"In addition to this the mangroves and ecosystem that promotes fish breeding will also take a hit and will adversely affect the socio-economic status of fisherfolk who depend on the creek for a living," says the environmentalist.
The Kamarajar port however dismisses allegation of using an 'unapproved map' and damaging the eco-system.
“As per the CRZ notification 2011, the proposed facilities are permissible activities under CRZ III and there are no eco-sensitive areas. Though the Buckingham canal and the Kosasthalaiyar river and a few mangrove patches are in and around the project area, the development of the bulk terminal stack yard, conveyor routing will be constructed without affecting them,” said P Radhakrishnan, Deputy General Manager (Civil), Kamarajar Port Limited to TNIE.