Even after two weeks of flooding and water-logging because of building neighbourhoods on water-bodies in Chennai, Kamaraj Port Trust in Ennore does not seem to have learnt a lesson from it and continues to go ahead with projects which will increase flooding in parts of Chennai.
Kamaraj Port Trust is illegally reclaiming land on Ennore creek for free-trade warehouse zones, according to the Coastal Resource Centre. The area which is currently being dumped on by the Kamaraj Port Trust had sparse mangrove stands until September 2015. In a press release, Coastal Resource Centre said, “Tidal influenced rivers, canals and creeks such as Ennore Creek are ecologically sensitive, and are critical to marine and inland fisheries. Additionally, the sprawling backwaters with their stands of mangroves are hydrologically important to mitigate flooding.”
Under the CRZ Notification 2011 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, land reclamation, bunding or undertaking any construction on natural watercourses is prohibited.
Image: This area belongs to the Kamaraj Port Trust.
Image: The Ennore creek where reclamation is carried out by Kamaraj Port Trust
Image: Reclamation area at the Ennore Creek
“Because the water-area is being reduced, then you are reducing ground-water recharge in this place. Here, there is a very thin column of fresh water, below that it is salt water and as one reduces ground-water recharge here, the fresh water starts reducing and salty water will start intruding into the ground water system,” said Saravanan, a hydro-geologist.
One could find heaps of dredged spoils and construction waste on the Ennore Creek. “Environmental clearance accorded for the construction of the port direct the project proponent to dump any dredged material on the northern side of the port to facilitate accretion of land and prevent erosion of the coastal belt, ” said Nityanand Jayaraman, Environment Activist from Chennai.
There were many sea-shells that could be seen in the dredged spoils which are dredged from the Ennore creek.
Image: Dredge spoils
“The Kamaraj Port Trust had started land reclamation process in September in Ennore Creek without clearance from the Environment Department. We had sent letter to the Environmental Department, Pollution Control Board, Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management regarding the land reclamation in Ennore Creek. We had also filed a police complaint against the Trust in Minjur police station,” said Pooja Kumar, Coastal Resource Centre.
Because of which, the Environment Department wrote to the Collector of Tiruvallur District of the District Coastal Zone Management and the Pollution Control Board to take an action against the problems highlighted by the Coastal Resource Centre and to immediately send a report regarding the action taken.
According to the form submitted by Kamaraj Port Trust seeking permission for clearance from the Environment department dated October 13, 2013 includes a master plan. “All these areas are part of the Final Master Plan that they have given to the Ministry of Environment", said K Saravanan, Coastal Resource Centre.
On November 13, the Coastal Resource Centre had written letters to Ministry of Shipping and M.A Bhaskarachar, Chairman, Kamaraj Port Limited regarding the dumping of dredged spoils and sand to reclaim land on Ennore Creek. They claimed in the letter that the Kamaraj Port Trust was violating the environmental laws.
The letter also said that because of these practices, the total ecology of the area was being affected. They asked the Ministry of Environment and the Port Trust to remediate the Ennore creek and restore it back to its original form.
On the visit to the Ennore creek, a representative from the Kamaraj Port Trust said that they have bought the land from the Government. He did not know about the environmental law violations about reclamation of land on a water body.
The International Seaport Dredging Limited which has taken up the contract of reclamation of the land on Ennore creek had a similar answer to give. A representative said that they also did not know about the environmental violations done due to the reclamation and would report to his senior authorities about this issue.
Another major problem that a visitor to Ennore can easily figure out is the large quantities of fly ash dumped on various parts of the backwaters and Buckingham Canal by the North Chennai Thermal Power Station. The fly ash has made the water in the canal stagnant in a large area.
The toxic waste from thermal power plants has not only affected the water-bodies but it is also a curse for the communities like Mugadwarakuppam, Sivanpadaiveedhi and Ennore kuppam who live near these thermal power plants.
For most of the people living along the creek, their main occupations are fishing, aquaculture, salt farming and shell picking.
Image: Fly ash in Buckingham canal