Time to change course

Chennai city will have no future if plans to fill the Ennore creek go ahead

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Since December 2015, Chennai has limped from one extreme weather-related shock to another — the floods, the failed monsoon of 2016, Cyclone Vardah, and now the water crisis. Chennai’s defining element is water. But the city shows scant regard for this precious but dangerous resource. Located squarely in the intervening floodplains of three rivers on a high-energy coastline, Chennai is a disaster-prone location. Any badly located city can be vulnerable merely by virtue of its location. But only a special kind of city — a city with a death wish — actively makes a bad situation worse.

Nothing speaks more elegantly to Chennai’s death wish than what governments are doing to the wetlands in North Chennai. In June, the State government conceded the Government of India-owned Kamarajar Port Ltd’s (KPL) request to divert 1,000 acres of the hydrologically sensitive Ennore wetlands for industrial installations that are best built on dry land. The proposal is pending Central government clearance. If permitted, KPL’s dream will turn out to be Chennai’s worst nightmare, far worse than the 2015 floods.

The importance of Ennore

Ennore Creek, a sprawling 8,000-acre tidal waterbody, is a place where climate change and disastrous land-use change converge. Two rivers with a total catchment of 5,000 sq km empty into the Ennore Creek.

This wetland’s importance may not be apparent. Much of the creek looks dry year-round, when visible waterspread is only 1,000 acres. But when cyclonic weather pushes the sea surging landwards, or when rainwaters from the two rivers come rushing to meet the sea, the waterspread in the creek swells to its majestic fullness. Come rain or storm surge, the availability of room for the rain or sea water to stay is what keeps the city from going under.

The creek offers another protection too. It buffers the rich aquifers of the Araniyar-Kosasthalaiyar Basin from the sea, and keeps salt water from invading groundwater resources that supply several hundred million litres daily to Chennai even during the worst droughts.

In 1996, the Tamil Nadu government protected a 6,500-acre stretch of the tidal waterbody under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification. But greed prevailed over good sense. More than 1,000 acres of the creek were lost to illegal encroachments that rise like dams across a river.

The offending installations block the path of rainwaters rushing down the Arani river and the mighty Kosasthalaiyar. Areas that never got flooded saw waters enter homes and remain for more than a fortnight in 2015. Tamil Nadu’s lifeline, the Manali petroleum refinery, went under water for days.

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Did TN coastal management body conspire to divert land from Ennore creek to Kamarajar Port?

RTI queries have revealed that the coastal management body had used a fraudulent Coastal Regulation Zone map to facilitate KPL’s proposal

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A conspiracy is underfoot to divert land from the Ennore Creek for the expansion of the Kamarajar Port, environment activists have alleged.

On June 22 the  Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) had cleared Kamarajar Port Ltd’s (KPL) proposal for diverting 1,000 acres of land to construct car parking terminals, warehouse zones and a coal yard within the Creek. This was done despite opposition from environmental groups, which highlighted the dangers of flooding due to encroachments on the Creek.

Now, RTI queries have revealed that the coastal management body had used a fraudulent Coastal Regulation Zone map to facilitate KPL’s proposal to divert the land from Ennore Creek. The discrepancy in the maps was revealed after receiving two RTI replies given by the Department of Environment.

The original 1996 map, obtained under RTI by Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network, showed the 6,500 acre Ennore Creek as CRZ 1 – a protected tidal waterbody. The authority had allegedly failed to use the 1996 Government of India-approved CRZ map for evaluating proposals in Ennore Creek, had instead furnished a CRZ map said to be revised and approved by Government of India in 1997.

However, the latter map denied the existence of the Creek.

According to Jesu Rathinam, in the first RTI reply, a map provided by the Department of Environment showed 6,469 acres of the Creek to be a tidal waterbody protected as a No Development Zone under CRZ-I regulations.

Environmentalists fear that using the falsified map that denies the existence of the Creek could lead to the development of real estate on the creek.

“The map obtained by CAN covers a stretch of 16 km and is consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Plan that identifies Sheet 2, Tiruvallur district, showing a coastal stretch of 16 km. But the map given to the 2017 RTI covers only 13 km, and makes it look like there is no creek in the map area,” environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman said at a press conference.

While the coastal management body has defended the use of the ‘new’ map, referring to a letter in 1997 where the Government of India had permitted Government of Tamil Nadu to revise the boundaries of Ennore Creek based on a survey by the Naval Hydrographer, the RTI response has refuted this claim.

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Map not modified: environment dept.

Says it did not go to Chief Hydrographer for demarcation of backwater areas on map

The controversy over two maps – one showing the existence of the Ennore Creek and another without the creek – just got murkier with the department of environment saying that the State had not approached the Chief Hydrographer to demarcate the backwater areas.

In reply to an Right To Information petition by the Coastal Resource Centre, the department on environment also said no modification was done on the map even though the Tamil Nadu government in 1997 sought certain modifications to the map approved in 1996.

“As The Ministry of Environment & Forests has not modified in Sheet-2, the question of changes made in the sheet has not arisen,” the department further said, raising doubts as to how Sheet-2 was changed to reflect no creek in the area.

According to Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre, the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) used a fraudulent CRZ map to facilitate a proposal by the Kamarajar Port Ltd to divert 1,000 acres of the Ennore Creek.

An official of the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (India) told The Hindu the maps at that time were created by the Department of Town and Country Planning. “They sent it to the government of India and got the approvals. The maps provided in the RTI replies are the same maps. These are also on our website,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

 

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‘Illegal map used to clear port plan in Ennore creek’

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) has used a fraudulent CRZ map to facilitate industrial activity in Ennore creek, allege activists.
“Using this map, the TNSCZMA has diverted around 1,000 acres in the creek to facilitate a proposal by Kamarajar Port Ltd,” said Pooja Kumar from Coastal Resource Centre, referring to RTI responses received from the Department of Environment, Tamil Nadu, and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, New Delhi on June 22.

On the allegation of using the wrong map, the member secretary, TNSCZMA, H Malleshappa said through the RTI response that he had furnished a map that was ‘revised and approved by Government of India in 1997.’Malleshappa’s response referred to a letter in 1997, in which the Government of India had permitted the TN government to revise the boundaries of Ennore creek, based on a survey by the Naval Hydrographer. He was, however, unavailable for comments despite repeated calls.

A subsequent RTI response from the Department of Environment dated July 20, however, exposed that the Department did not approach the Chief Hydrographer to demarcate the backwater areas. “In 1997, the Department of Environment did not approach the Chief Hydrographer to demarcate the backwater areas,” the response said. Further it revealed that subsequent to the letter dated 30.9.1997, no modification has been done.

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Ennore Creek falls off map, activists cry foul

Does the Ennore Creek exist or not? As per two RTI replies given by the Department of Environment, it exists and it doesn’t exist.

According to Jesu Rathinam of the Coastal Action Network, in the first RTI reply, a map provided by the Department of Environment, declaring it as approved by the Government of India, showed 6,469 acres of the Creek to be a tidal waterbody protected as a No Development Zone under CRZ-I regulations.

In response to another RTI this year, another official map shows that the entire Ennore Creek has disappeared.

The Coastal Action Network (CAN), the Coastal Resource Centre, the Save Ennore Creek Campaign and Ennore fisherfolk groups want an independent investigation into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Environment and Forests Department.

Environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman said as per the map given that now, more than 6,000 acres of the creek will vanish.

 

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RTI nails Fraud by CRZ Regulator Illegal CRZ map used to Clear Kamarajar Port Proposal in Ennore Creek

 

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24 July, 2017. CHENNAI — The Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) used a fraudulent CRZ map to facilitate Kamarajar Port Ltd’s proposal to divert 1000 acres of the Ennore Creek, according to RTI responses received from the Department of Environment, Tamil Nadu, and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, New Delhi. On June 22, 2017, the SCZMA cleared KPL’s proposal for diverting 1000 acres to construct car parking terminals, warehouse zones and a coal yard within the Creek, despite representations to the highlighting the dangerous flooding that will result from such illegal encroachment.

Defending allegations that the Authority had failed to use the 1996 Government of India-approved CRZ map for evaluating proposals in Ennore Creek, Member Secretary, TNSCZMA Dr. H. Malleshappa had furnished a CRZ map purporting to have been “revised and approved by [Government of India] in 1997.” Where the original 1996 map (obtained under RTI by Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network) showed the 6500 acre Ennore Creek as CRZ 1 — a protected tidal waterbody, the latter map denied the existence of the Creek. The latter map was also given in response to a representation that KPL’s proposal should be denied as it fell afoul of the 1996 CRZ map.

Dr. Malleshappa’s response referred to a letter in 1997 where the Government of India had permitted Government of Tamil Nadu to revise the boundaries of Ennore Creek based on a survey by the Naval Hydrographer.

Shocked by the denial of the Creek’s existence, CRC had requested to know the basis of revisions made to the 1996 map, specifically the Hydrographer’s survey to redefine the creek’s boundaries.

In response to CRC’s RTI request, the Department of Environment in a letter dated 20.7.2017 has revealed that “In 1997, the Department of Environment has not approached the Chief Hydrographer to demarcate the backwater areas,” and that “Subsequent to letter dated 30.9.1997, no modification has been done.” The RTI revealed that Dr. Malleshappa’s claim that the 1997 map had replaced the 1996 map showing the Creek as a protected zone was false.

“This is high-level fraud with clear intent to violate both the environmental laws and the Right to Information Act. More dangerously, the illegal approvals given for encroachments within the Creek by the SCZMA puts nearly 1 million people at risk due to disastrous flooding,” said Nityanand Jayaraman of Save Ennore Creek campaign. The campaign will pursue criminal prosecution of the officials involved in the fraud.

The matter has been brought to the notice of Environment Secretary, the Chief Secretary and the State Disaster Management Authority. “We would like to believe that these senior administrators would not knowingly violate the law or put communities at risk. But for us to continue believing so, the Government must withdraw the approval given to KPL, act against all existing encroachments and declare Ennore Creek off-limits for industrial installations,” said Pooja Kumar, Coastal Resource Centre.

Already 1090 acres of the 6500 acre creek has been encroached upon. An additional 300 acres has been degraded by flyash discharged from North Chennai Thermal Power Station. As we speak, NTECL Vallur is dumping mud on mangroves to expand its flyash pond.

The existing encroachments caused serious flooding in Manali, Ernavur, RK Nagar, Athipattu and Ponneri during the 2015 floods. Since the floods, KPL has encroached on an additional 400 acres of the Creek. If the rains are heavy this monsoon, the flooding in North Chennai, Manali and Ponneri will be disastrous.

Alleging that similar fraud has been committed throughout Tamil Nadu’s coast, Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network said “This fraud by SCZMA calls for a thorough and independent enquiry into the violations of CRZ Notification using the 1996 map as the baseline.”

For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman, Save Ennore Creek campaign: 9444082401; Pooja Kumar, Coastal Resource Centre: 9791122180.

Blog: storyofennore.wordpress.com

Ennore Creek goes missing from official map, complain activists

CHENNAI: Two maps given to naturalists following RTI applications are contradictory. While one map, approved by the Government of India, showed the presence of Ennore Creek, spread over 6,569 acres of area in Chennai, the creek was missing in the other one, complained activists.

Coastal Resource Centre founder Nityanand Jayaraman said the first map was given to them after they filed an RTI application in 2009. The map was approved by the government of India in 1996, which showed the creek, a tidal water body protected as ‘No development zone under CRZ1’. However, another RTI filed in this year after a controversy erupted over diversion of Ennore wetlands, the entire creek had gone missing, Nityanand said.

Releasing both the maps at a meeting, members of the Coastal Action Network, Coastal Resource Centre, Save Ennore Creek Campaign and Ennore fisherfolk demanded an independent probe into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority. The water body protects Tiruvottiyur, RK Nagar, Madhavaram and Ponneri areas of Chennai from flooding.

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Ennore creek erased from govt map, allege activists

CHENNAI: Two maps of the city given to environment activists based on RTI applications appear contradictory. The first, approved by the Centre in 1996, showed the presence of Ennore creek, spread over 6,569 acres, while the second does not have the creek at all.

Coastal Resource Centre founder Nityanand Jayaraman said it was the surprising that the creek, shown as a water body protected as a ‘no development zone’ under CRZ1 in the map presented after an RTI application filed in 2009, was completely missing in the map given after an application filed this year following a controversy over diversion of the Ennore wetlands.

Releasing both maps at a meeting here on Friday, the Coastal Action Network, Coastal Resource Centre, Save Ennore Creek Campaign and Ennore fisherfolk demanded an independent probe into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority. The creek, they said, protected Thiruvottiyur, RK Nagar, Madhavaram and Ponneri areas from flooding.

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Ennore Creek falls off map, activists cry foul

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Contradictory claims:Two RTI queries have yielded different responses on the existence of the Ennore Creek.R_Ragu | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Say it would pave the way for takeover by realtors

Does the Ennore Creek exist or not? As per two RTI replies given by the Department of Environment, it exists and it doesn’t exist.

According to Jesu Rathinam of the Coastal Action Network, in the first RTI reply, a map provided by the Department of Environment, declaring it as approved by the Government of India, showed 6,469 acres of the Creek to be a tidal waterbody protected as a No Development Zone under CRZ-I regulations.

In response to another RTI this year, another official map shows that the entire Ennore Creek has disappeared.

The Coastal Action Network (CAN), the Coastal Resource Centre, the Save Ennore Creek Campaign and Ennore fisherfolk groups want an independent investigation into the functioning of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Environment and Forests Department.

Environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman said as per the map given that now, more than 6,000 acres of the creek will vanish.

 

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Ennore Creek is ‘Petrochemical Park’ in new CRZ map

CHENNAI: The new Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) map of Tiruvallur district has marked the 6,400-acre Ennore Creek as “Petrochemical Industrial Park”. Activists fear this is a backdoor attempt to industrialise the creek, an ecologically sensitive area where the Kosasthalaiyar River meets the sea.

The new map was accessed through the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Despite it being the most important document that to would regulate the development along the coastal area, there was no mention of when the map was prepared and by whom.
The new map is in sharp contrast to the 1996 map, which shows the 6,469 acres of Ennore Creek to be a tidal water body and protected as No Development Zone under CRZ-1.

Sharing the documents at the press meet on Friday, members of Coastal Action Network (CAN), Coastal Resource Centre, Save Ennore Creek Campaign and All Ennore Fishing Villages (AEFV) coalition demanded an independent probe into the working of the State Coastal Zone Management Authority and the Department of Environment.

Jesu Rathinam of CAN said she got the copy of the 1996 map in 2009 after struggling for three years. “Also, the map obtained by us covers a stretch of 16 km, while the latest map covers only 13 km and makes it seem as if there is no Creek in the map area,” she said.

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