The fishing hamlets situated around the Ennore Creek, perhaps, finally have some good news as the District Environmental Engineer of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) in Ambattur has directed the Kamarajar Port Ltd (KPL) to remove dredged material dumped illegally in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) areas immediately.
This move by TNPCB comes after an inspection that was carried out in response to a complaint filed by K Saravanan, Chennai-based fisher rights activist from the Coastal Resource Centre (CRC), against KPL's attempts to convert 280 acres of the Ennore Creek's tidal wetland into a coal stacking yard.
Welcoming the move to protect the CRZ portions of the Ennore Creek, in a press release, the Coastal Research Centre and the Save Ennore Creek Campaign stated that the State Coastal Zone Management Authority (SCZMA) should ensure that KPL and other entities are not allowed to convert the Creek into real estate. The organisations urged that the TNPCB should prosecute the offender under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.
TNM had earlier reported that the entire expansion of the Kamarjar port converted thousands of acres of wetlands into land. The CRC claims that KPL's masterplan document reveals that the new coal-yard is part of a plan to convert 1300 acres of the Creek into industrial real estate.
This much needed move is a small step towards restoration of the Ennore Creek, which has been choked by industrial waste and unregulated constructions by industries located around the creek.
The Ennore Creek, located to the north of Chennai, is a natural drainage system for two rivers--the Araniyar and Kosasthalaiyar--which meet at the Creek before flowing into the Bay of Bengal at Mugathwarakuppam.
During heavy rains, it drains more water than the Cooum, Adyar and Kovalam estuaries combined. However, illegal encroachments by state and Central PSUs have eaten into 1,090 acres of the 8,000 acre Creek. Encroachments in the Creek caused heavy flooding in RK Nagar, Madhavaram, Thiruvottiyur and Ponneri areas, and led to the shut-down of the Manali refinery.
In 2016, a campaign to save the Ennore Creek was started by environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman. â€śUnless the state government arrests further encroachment and acts urgently to restore the Creek, Chennai will end up in a watery grave the next time heavy rains fall,â€ť Nityanand had warned.
After the Chennai floods of 2015, the fisher community living around the Creek brought everyoneâ€™s attention to what the Kamarajar Port and the power plants in the area were doing to the waterbodies. The exit to the sea was blocked by industrial encroachments and pollution.
The worst offender, the Kamarajar Port, ironically conceived to decongest and improve the environment quality, according to Malavika Balasubramanian, has allegedly violated several of the rules and regulations laid down under the Air and Water Act (Prevention of Pollution) Acts, 1974 and the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification (CRZ) of 2011. The port had dumped sand and earth on the Creek to create land, which is in violation of the CRZ notification that prohibits reclamation of land from tidal waterbodies, reported Malavika for the News Minute.
In 2015, KPL began dumping dredged material on mangroves in a bid to reclaim the waterbody for an office complex. According to CRC, when repeated complaints failed to garner any action from the authorities, fisherfolks resorted to physically blocking KPL earthmovers from encroaching any further. CRC claims that till date, the area encroached have not been restored despite repeated orders by the National Green Tribunal directing KPL to remove encroachments.
The current violation is located along the southern boundary of another 300 acre coal yard that was illegally constructed by KPL within the Creek between 2006 and 2008. â€śWith the state and district Coastal Zone Management Authorities always looking the other way, KPL's strategy is simple â€“ violate first, regulate later,â€ť said Saravanan.
A proposal by KPL seeking permission to divert an additional 1,300 acres is pending approval with the SCZMA, stated the press release. â€śThe corrective action taken by the Authority to protect the Creek is unprecedented, and we hope that the SCZMA's actions remain consistent in the future,â€ť said Nityanand.