Punish severely Ennore creek polluters: Panel

A three-member panel formed to study pollution caused near Ennore has recommended severe penalties for all violations and asked the authorities to inspect all power plants near the area.

The panel, headed by retired Madras High Court judge Justice D Hariparanthaman, submitted its report to the public works department (PWD) and the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

The report, titled ‘Death by a thousand cuts: Report of public hearing on loss of ecology and fisher livelihood in Ennore creek’, has recommended a comprehensive inspection of the function of all power plants and industries near the Ennore Creek. Continue reading

Panel seeks ban on industrial expansion near Ennore Creek

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The healthy Ennore riverbed facilitated the breeding of mud crabs. The species disappeared after the locality was contaminated with fly ash.

Seeking a moratorium on rapid industrial expansion in Ennore Creek, a three-member panel, headed by retired Madras high court judge on Monday  submitted the report to Public Works Department (PWD) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

The report titled, ‘Death by a thousand cuts,’ said that around 400 acres of Ennore wetland with rich biodiversity was contaminated by power stations including North Chennai Thermal Power Station (NCTPS), Vallur Thermal Power Project, and Ennore Thermal Power Station (ETPS).

Former Madras HC judge D. Hariparanthaman said that sand and earth dredge from the sea is being dumped by Kamaraj port in the sprawling water body with good mangrove cover. “It is a prohibition under Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) notification, 2011,” he added. Continue reading

Government Entities Pollute Ennore Creek

A panel constituted to hold a public hearing on the loss of ecology and fishermen’s livelihood in Ennore creek (due to illegal activities of the industries in the area) has found that most violations were committed by the central and State government agencies.

The Ennore creek, which was previously a sprawling ecological area, has now turned into a stinking cesspool with villagers complaining about declining fish population, poor markets for fish and contamination of the water bodies due to the environmental violations of the industries. The panel comprising retired Justice D Hariparanthanam, former professor S Janakarajan and Professor Karen Coelho from the Madras Institute of Development Studies, has said that salt pans, mangroves and water bodies are marked as ecologically sensitive areas by the coastal management plans. But these sensitive areas have been allotted for ‘hazardous and special industries’ in the second Chennai Master Plan by the CMDA. Continue reading

Ennore air worse in PM 2.5 than New Delhi

A survey conducted by Coastal Resource Centre  along with members of the local community at Ennore creek has produced alarming results about the air quality in the suburb. The pollution levels are equivalent to New Delhi with PM 2.5 levels recording 2.3 times higher than the prescribed limits.

Samples taken from the rooftops of residential homes in the villages of Kattukuppam, Mughathwara Kuppam, Athipattu and Ernavur recorded PM 2.5 levels ranging from 105.7 to 141.5 Mg per m3, which exceeds the 60 Mg per m3 level prescribed by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change(MoEFCC). Continue reading

Ennore residents breathing in toxins, shows study

The residents of six villages in Ennore are breathing air that has more toxins than the permitted level, as prescribed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, a sample study has found.

Thermal power plants

The six villages are located in the midst of several thermal power plants, including Ennore, North Chennai and Vallur plants, and many industrial units.

The villagers, who mostly depend on fishing, blame dumping of coal ash and the proximity of an ash pond to the Ennore creek for pollution of the creek, resulting in skin infections for residents and depletion of fish resources.

The sample pollution study carried out by Coastal Resource Centre has found the air quality in Ennore to be far worse than the air quality in Manali, notified as critically polluted area.

The study ‘Unfit To Breath’ was released by the Centre at a press meet held on Monday. Continue reading

Airpocalypse in Chennai

Chennaiites may not care that New Delhi is the world’s most polluted city (WHO), but knowing a suburb in the city is not too far behind can give anyone pause. Ennore, 16 km north of Chennai, is bound the by Korttalaiyar River, Ennore Creek and the Bay of Bengal, and is fast rising up the ranks among the most polluted places around Chennai.

Shockingly, Ennore air quality is found to be far worse than the air quality in Manali, a petrochemical industrial zone that was notified as a critically polluted area. With concentration levels of PM2.5 ranging between 105.7 and 141.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air, Ennore is engulfed in a dust storm that could claim hundreds of lives if appropriate measures are not taken.

This data was brought to light by Chennai-based Coastal Resource Centre (CRC), an NGO working towards coastal environment protection. A report titled ‘Unfit to Breathe’, revealing air quality around the thermal power plant cluster in Ennore, was released on Monday.

As per the report, the air samples were taken from roof-tops of the houses in Kattukuppam, Mughathwara Kuppam, Athipattu and Ernavur villages all within 2-3 km radius of the nearest plant or ash ponds, using filters fitted to a low volume air sampler and analysed for PM2.5 and all heavy metals. An accredited laboratory in Oregon, USA, conducted the analysis and shared the results.

Public health expert Dr Rakhal Gaitonde said PM2.5 pollutants are minute carcinogenic particles, which penetrate the lungs, entering straight into the blood stream. The concentration of these particles is 1.7 to 2.3 times higher than the 24-hour standard of 60 ug/m3 prescribed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change.

Pointing at the root cause of the crisis, city-based activist Pooja Kumar, working with CRC, said though Ennore is a hydrologically sensitive area, the place has become a victim of rapid industrialisation and over-exploitation. Today, Ennore has become the ‘power capital’ of Chennai, hosting the North Chennai Power Cluster. The existing capacity of the four thermal power plants is 3,780 MW and there is a proposal to add another 3,320 MW by setting-up three new plants. The area also houses two ports. “All this has taken heavy toll on the entire ecosystem — air and water,” she said.

Said environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman, “It’s not just PM2.5, but the levels of heavy metals like manganese, lead, arsenic and nickel are also at dangerous levels.” There are no standards in India for any of these heavy metals, except arsenic, in ambient air.  Speaking to CE, a TN Pollution Control Board official acknowledged that the air quality in Ennore is a matter of concern, but refused to draw parallels to the situation in New Delhi. “We conduct regular tests and monitor the situation. Also, the thermal plants are directed to adopt the best practices. Only recently, the Environment Ministry has notified revised norms of emission for coal-based thermal plants,” the official said, indicating the situation will improve in future.

Key findings of CRC report

  • Arsenic levels from Kattukuppam exceed the MoEF annual standard of 0.006 µg/m3 by 1.25 times. Arsenic cause cancer and skin sores
  • Manganese levels in all four samples were above the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment standards by 1.2 to 2.5 times. Manganese damages central nervous system
  • Lead levels in two samples exceed US EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards for long-term exposure. Lead is a known neurotoxin
  • Nickel levels in one sample at Athipattu exceed the California standards by 1.2 times. Nickel affects the respiratory and immune systems

Ray of Hope

Under the revised norms, the new power plants (to be commissioned from January 1, 2017) will have to achieve ‘zero waste water discharge’ standard and keep strict tabs on emission of all pollutants. In case of PM10, the new plants will have to restrict the emission to 30 mg per cubic metre as compared to 100 mg per cubic metre in older plants. A statement from the ministry reads, “The new standards are aimed at reducing emission of PM10, Sulphur Dioxide, and Oxide of Nitrogen, which will in turn help in bringing about an improvement in the ambient air quality in and around thermal power plants.”

Fishermen want health survey

A six-village coalition to save the Ennore Creek has called for a moratorium on expansion of thermal power plants and other industries in the region, besides demanding a health survey. R L Srinivasan, president, Anaithu Ennore Minava Grama Kootamaipu, said the fishermen living in these villages need to visit the hospital once in 15 days due to various ailments – and the closest hospital is 10 km away. “Only a detailed health survey by the authorities will reveal the root cause of wide-spread diseases. Heath problems like asthma, decrements in lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are taking life out of these villages,” he rued. Both inland and marine fishing have been greatly affected by the reclamation and contamination of the creek, Buckingham Canal and the estuary. Fish resources have declined and the quality of catch is poor.

Originally published in The New Indian Express on the 12th of April 2016. Read the article here

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`Carcinogens in Ennore 2 times prescribed levels’

The fact that the air in the Ennore region, where industries have sprouted indiscriminately over the years, is polluted was known.The alarming levels it has reached were revealed on Monday .

Coastal Resource Centre, a NGO, sent air samples collected from Kattukuppam, Mugathwara Kuppam, Athipattu and Ernavur all within a 3km radius of the nearest ash pond or a power plant in Ennore to US-based Chester LabNet in US to test for particulate matter, including carcinogens, and heavy metals in the air. While the level of PM 2.5 was 1.7 to 2.3 times higher than standards prescribed by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change, the levels of manganese was 1.2 to 2.5 times the standards set by the California office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Continue reading