The government-owned Kamarajar Port Limited and North Chennai Thermal Power station (NCTPS) has come under sharp criticism from the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal for multiple violations of environment norms that have degraded the ecosystem in Ennore. The bench has further invoked the ‘polluter pays’ principle and ordered the Port to pay Rs 8.34 lakh to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) for ‘environmental compensation’, on Monday.
Additionally, as part of corporate social responsibility, the Port authorities have been ordered to undertake mass planting of mangroves and other plants specific to that region (33% of their total area). All other port activities in the Ennore region, too, will now be monitored and a detailed environmental management plan has to be carried out for handling dredged material and get the approval of TNPCB before disposal
The complete survey of the area was carried out by a committee comprising officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and IIT-Madras. They were given four tasks by the NGT — to find whether any damages have been caused to the soil on account of the violations, whether remediation methods adopted by the port are sufficient, what is the further remediation to be undertaken by them and to assess the environmental compensation for the violation and damages to the environment.
They collected soil samples at all nine dredged material dumpsites and found heavy metal contamination. The report from NGT alleged that mangroves were destroyed due to illegal dumping of dredged soil in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) area of Ennore Creek.
"From satellite images and analysis results, it is observed that the dredged material dumped in the nine dumping sites falling under CRZ notified area not yet fully removed. The mangroves in the area may be lost due to dumping in the nine sites," reads the report.
"The port authority has not adopted any scientific methods to remediate the soil or to restore the soil/mangroves to regional conditions. Though efforts were made to remove the dump falling in the CRZ area, it is observed that it is not fully removed and dredged material is still lying in the CRZ area," it further reads.
As far as metals are concerned, traces of Magnesium, Aluminium, Iron, Potassium, Chromium, Lead and Calcium were found in the soil with high concentrations in all dumpsites. The metals have leached from the dredged material dumpsite to a depth of 100 cm below the ground level, the report said.
“In all nine dumpsites, these five elements — Chromium, Lead, Nickel, Copper and Zinc — are present in concentrations more than reference material and fly ash, indicating that the dumpsites are not fully cleared and dredged material is still lying within the CRZ notified area,” it read.
The port authorities, meanwhile, claimed that a total of 83,533 cubic meters of dredged material has been removed following the NGT order on Monday. A total of 73,113 cubic meters of material was dumped in the CRZ notified area for the development of additional coal berths during 2015.