The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed aquaculture farms, especially shrimp farms, located on the East Coast Road (ECR) in Chennai to be shut down for being located in ‘prohibited’ zones. The tribunal also ordered action against the owners for violating environment protection guidelines like not having Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance and releasing untreated waste into water bodies.
The NGT had registered the case suo motu based on reports from The News Minute and the Indian Express reporting the lack of CRZ clearance for shrimp hatcheries on ECR. TNM's story was based on the report published by Saravanan and Pooja Kumar of Chennai-based Coastal Resource Centre called Below the Radar. The case was also registered based on findings from the report. Apart from that, people from the Kanathur village in Chengalpattu district had also filed a complaint with the District Collector asking for the illegal construction of shrimp farms to be banned and to not grant permission for more shrimp farms to be constructed. Both of these cases were clubbed together and taken up for hearing on September 29.
In March 2021, the Tribunal formed a committee which comprised a senior officer from the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (CAA) along with District Collectors of Chengalpattu and Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The Tribunal directed them to file a report after inspecting the shrimp hatcheries concerned and collect water samples from them to ascertain the level of effluents present in them. The inspection was conducted on March 29, 2021 and the committee found that all the hatcheries were not registered as per the CAA Act. The Act mandates that the registration has to be renewed every five years which was also not followed by the hatcheries. The committee also found that the solid waste generated from the hatcheries like packing material, plastic containers and filters were not disposed properly and most of the hatcheries that were inspected dumped them outside their premises.
Apart from removing the hatcheries that were constructed without permission and registering them as per the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act, the Tribunal directed a committee to constantly monitor the hatcheries to ensure that there are no violations. Authorities have also been asked to ensure that there are no discharges from the hatcheries with harmful effluents into the tidal zone.