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.
In its enquiry, the panel found there had been blatant violations with departments such as the district administration, Public Works Department, CMDA, the State Coastal Zone Management Authority, Tamil Nadu Pollution Board and the police having failed to take concrete steps to halt the deterioration of this green belt in Ennore. The panel specifically looked into the involvement of the thermal power plant surrounding the creek including the North Chennai Thermal Power Station, which is owned and operated by Tangedco, a government entity, that’s discharging coolant water into the estuary.
The panel has recommended an immediate inspection of all power plants in the area and also ensure an urgent halt of all effluent discharge into the water bodies. It has called for a moratorium on the expansion of industries that would hinder the flow of the river until a cumulative report is released. The experts have urged the CMDA to not authorise conversion of ecologically and hydrologically sensitive areas to industries or other zones, and that amendments should be made to the wetlands that have already been converted.
Speaking at a press meet, Hariparanthanam said fisherfolk had reached their wit’s end, as their only concern was not just a decrease in fish population and the pathetic state of the waterbodies, but they were affected by the industrial activities that lead to skin diseases and breathing problems. “The conditions are shocking; there has been a systematic destruction of the area (Ennore creek) and the government has to take North Chennai regions into consideration and not just the rivers in the South,” said Coelho.
The recommendations will be sent to the State Coastal Management Authority and the TNPCB for immediate action. The report also noted that the encroachment of the river was responsible for the flooding in Athipattu, Manalu and Ernavur regions.
Original Article was published in The New Indian Express here