21 July, 2017. Chennai: Two widely conflicting maps of the Ennore Creek, both of which were presented as Government of India-approved CRZ maps in two separate RTIs, have exposed serious irregularities and possible fraud in the functioning of the Department of Environment. A map provided to Jesu Rathinam of Coastal Action Network under RTI in 2009 by the Department of Environment declared as the map approved in 1996 by Government of India shows 6469 acres of Ennore Creek to be a tidal waterbody protected as No Development Zone under CRZ 1. However, in the version presented as the official map in response to a 2017 RTI – after controversy erupted over diversion of Ennore wetlands – the entire Ennore Creek has disappeared.
“Since both maps have been obtained under RTI, the Department of Environment has falsified information in one of the two cases. That is a punishable offence under the RTI Act,” said Jesu Rathinam. The map obtained by CAN covers a stretch of 16 km and is consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Plan that identifies Sheet 2, Thiruvallur District as covering a coastal stretch of 16 km. The later map given in response to the 2017 RTI, however, covers only 13 kmand makes it seem as if there is no Creek in the map area.
Releasing the documents at a press conference, 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 and the Environment & Forest Department that heads the authority. The Ennore Creek protects Thiruvottiyur, RK Nagar, Madhavaram and Ponneri areas from flooding. “By converting Ennore Creek into real estate, we are condemning the people of North Chennai to a watery grave. The city could not handle the tiny Adyar when it flooded. If we lose the Creek and the mighty Kosasthalaiyar floods during the next rains, nothing can save this city,” warned R.L. Srinivasan, a fisher leader from the Coalition of All Ennore Fishing Villages. The Kosasthalai River can discharge 125,000 cusecs, which is far more than the combined discharge of Adyar and Cooum.
Documents obtained indicate that the map denying the existence of Ennore Creek is the falsified one. The 2017 RTI response includes a 1997 letter from the Ministry of Environment & Forests responding to requests for certain changes proposed to be made by the Government of Tamil Nadu to accommodate the setting up of a petrochemical park in Ennore.
Specifically, the Ministry allowed the Government of Tamil Nadu to re-draw the backwater limits contained in the 1996 approved map based on survey by the Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India. The Ministry, however, denied the Government of Tamil Nadu’s request to remove salt pans from the purview of CRZ and insisted that salt pans influenced by tidal actionwould invoke the protection of the CRZ Notification. The letter does not mention any request made or approval granted to alter the boundaries of the CRZ map.
“We believe the 1996 map – declaring the entire Creek as CRZ 1 — is the correct one as it is consistent with law and reality,” said K. Saravanan of Coastal Resource Centre. “The Naval Hydrographer – a scientific body — could not have ignored the existence of such a large tidal waterbody,” he said.
Two separate complaints have been filed with the Tamil Nadu Information Commission seeking a probe into the matter. The organisations have also approached the State Disaster Management Authority and the Chief Secretary to intervene to avert a disaster.
For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman – 9444082401;
Jesu Rathinam – 9443316738. Blog: storyofennore.wordpress.com