It is destroying the ecology and livelihood of fishermen.

Chennais Kamarajar Port illegally expanding and destroying the Ennore creek say activistsImage courtesy: Coastal Resources Centre
news Thursday, May 05, 2016 - 18:30

When the Kamarajar Port, situated on the Ennore creek, commenced business on 22 June 2001, little did the neighbouring fishing hamlets know they would be robbed off their health and livelihood in a few years. Today, fifteen years down the lane, the port and couple of other major state-owned industries have succeeded in doing just that. Ironically, the Kamarajar port was supposedly conceived to decongest and improve the environmental quality at the busy Chennai port.

According to a report tabled by the Coastal Resources Centre, the Ennore Creek is surrounded by several industrial operations - Manali and Thiruvottriyur Industrial Areas, North Chenai Thermal Power Sation (NCTPS), NTECL power plant in Vallur, the Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS), Kamarajar Port Ltd. (KPL), and L&T port in Kattupalli. These industries dump their industrial effluent and wastes into the creek, destroying its ecology.

The Kamarajar Port alone 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 creek to create land, which is in violation of the CRZ notification that prohibits reclamation of land from tidal waterbodies, say activists. However, once the fisherfolk protested against the reclamation, the authorities from the port halted the work.

In another act of reclamation, the KPL has allegedly dumped mud on saltpans and tidal mudflat areas, and created large iron and coal ore storage yards, which are operated by private entities. The fine silt dumped from the mud has found its way back into the creek, trickling down to settle on the riverbed, reducing the river’s depth and posing the danger of a flood.

In addition, the KPL also built a bund across the creek, to connecting the port to the coal yard. After the bund came into existence, the width of the creek which was initially around 1 km wide has been reduced to a mere 30 metres, stated the report. This bund, in a KPL official’s words to The Hindu, has been built in a bid to protect the creek. However, the Central Resource Centre refutes this claim. “Any activity on the creek is illegal. How can they claim it is in protection of the creek?” questions a vehement Shwetha Narayanan from the Central Resource Centre.

The bund is again in violation of the CRZ notification, as it obstructs the flow of the tidal-influenced waterbodies. Furthermore, fisherfolk allege that the 30-metre stretch is also heavily silted, making it impossible to navigate during a low-tide.

Recently, officials of Kamarajar port and Chennai port decided to allow traders to use the former as an alternative gateway to export their goods, in order to decongest the flow of traffic at the Chennai port. In order to facilitate this transition, the KPL has decided to invest Rs.20 crore in strengthening, straightening and deepening the creek for flow of water from the port to the sea.

“You cannot destroy a creek and then restore it. The very fact that they are trying to straighten a natural body highlights the damage inflicted on the creek. We do not need their charity; spend the money on remediating the existing damage, rather than taking on further activity,” says Shwetha.

While this shift is underway, the KPL has also acquired 651 acres from the Salt department to build stockyards, truck parking yards and other such facilities. The report requests the concerned authorities to halt any expansion plans that KPL may have. “The expansion of the port is illegal; it will only lead to further encroachment on the creek. The State Coastal Zone Management Authority as well as the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has taken note of this fact, and yet these state-run authorities continue their atrocities,” laments Shwetha.

The report drafted by the Central Resource Centre has been brought to the notice of the concerned state authorities. However, no action has been initiated, thanks to the upcoming state assembly elections. Meanwhile, with numerous violations already under their belt, the KPL continues to move ahead with its business plan. “They may want to expand and spend copious amount of cash in doing so,” says Swetha, “But the inherent fact remains that they are illegal.”

 

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